Loneliness in elderly people: an important area for nursing research


Roger Watson Senior Lecturer, Departmant of Nursing Studies The University of Edinburg Edinburg EH8 9LL Scotland e mail RWatson@ed.ac.uk


The phenomenon of loneliness occurs in people of all ages but may be a particular problem in the elderly It is acknowledged that loneliness is not a necessary accompaniment to ageing and that ageing is not solely responsible for the development of loneliness in elderly people However, there is a relationship between ageing and loneliness Four major theories of loneliness are reviewed and their utility for application to research in the elderly is examined along with a consideration of the ways in which loneliness can be measured While causal relationships are difficult to determine, there is evidence that loneliness is associated with a number of physical and psychological pathologies and the relevance of these to nursing is discussed There is a growing awareness of the phenomenon of loneliness in elderly people in the nursing literature and some evidence that nursing intervention can be beneficial in this regard both at alleviating loneliness and reducing some of the adverse effects of loneliness Finally some directions for nursing research are presented which are aimed at improving the assessment and nursing intervention for loneliness in elderly people