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Objective

Previous research has identified an association between loneliness and psychiatric morbidity, but many of the studies have been based on small convenience samples and have not always used standardized measures.

Aims and Methods

This study aimed to assess the association between standardized measures of loneliness and psychiatric morbidity using data from a large sample of adolescents from Northern Ireland (Young Life and Times Survey, 2011). A total of 1,434 participants completed the survey.

Results

The prevalence of loneliness and psychiatric morbidity was 15.6% and 28.4% respectively. A multivariate binary logistic regression was used to identify the significant correlates of psychiatric morbidity. Demographic and loneliness variables were entered as covariates and female gender and perceptions of familial poverty were significantly associated with GHQ caseness. Loneliness increased the likelihood of GHQ caseness by more than five times.

Conclusions

Adolescent loneliness is significantly associated with psychiatric morbidity for Northern Irish adolescents. School-based screening and interventions to reduce loneliness may reduce the prevalence of loneliness.

Practitioner Points

  • Adolescent loneliness is a possible indirect indicator for mental health problems.
  • Standardized measures of loneliness, with population norms, are widely available.
  • There is no clear profile of a ‘lonely adolescent’ based on demographic variables.