Dispositional optimism, defined as a generalized tendency to positive outcome expectancies, is associated with well-being and successful aging. However, it remains unclear whether optimism is also correlated to less feelings of loneliness over time. We aimed to determine whether dispositional optimism is prospectively associated with less feelings of loneliness, independently of potential confounders inherent to the aging process.
We observed 416 older men aged between 70 and 89 years (mean 74.9 years, standard deviation [SD] 4.7 years) within the population-based Zutphen Elderly Study during 10 years of follow-up. Baseline dispositional optimism was assessed using a four-item questionnaire. The presence of feelings of loneliness, the main outcome of our study, was assessed using the 11-item loneliness scale of De Jong Gierveld in the years 1990, 1993, 1995, and 2000. The association between baseline dispositional optimism and loneliness over time was tested by using multilevel regression analysis and by adjusting for potential confounders (i.e. age, living arrangement, social contacts, widowhood, memberships, self-rated health, and depressive symptoms).
Feelings of loneliness significantly increased during 10 years of follow-up but showed temporal stability (reliability coefficient 0.78). Low baseline dispositional optimism was strongly associated with loneliness over time, also in the adjusted analysis. A 1 SD increase in baseline dispositional optimism was associated with a 0.14 SD (95% confidence interval 0.04–0.23) lower level of loneliness (F1,320 = 7.8; p = 0.006).
Dispositional optimism is correlated to lower feelings of loneliness over time in older men, independently of depression or changes in social network. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.