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Perceived stress mediates the relationship between emotional loneliness and sleep quality over time in older adults

Authors

  • Joanna E. McHugh,

    Corresponding author
    1. Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
    • TRIL (Technology Research for Independent Living) Centre, Dublin, Ireland
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  • Brian A. Lawlor

    1. TRIL (Technology Research for Independent Living) Centre, Dublin, Ireland
    2. Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
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Correspondence should be addressed to Joanna McHugh, TRIL Centre, Top Floor, Hospital 4, St James's Hospital, Dublin 8, Ireland (e-mail: joannamchugh@gmail.com).

Abstract

Objective

Both loneliness and poor sleep quality are common occurrences in late life and both are detrimental to physical and mental health. While loneliness may be difficult to intervene upon, there may be correlated factors, which, if alleviated, could mitigate the effects of loneliness and sleep quality on health in late life.

Design

A longitudinal, observational study whereby we gathered predictive variables at baseline and dependent variable (sleep) at follow-up.

Method

We investigated the relationship between loneliness at baseline and sleep quality at follow-up in a group of 447 older adults attending the clinic for research participation. Loneliness, stress and sleep quality were all measured using self-report validated psychometric tools.

Results

We found that loneliness, specifically emotional loneliness, predicted sleep quality at follow-up, controlling for demographic factors and for sleep quality at baseline. Upon applying mediation methods to the data, we then found that this relationship was mediated in part by perceived stress.

Conclusion

We conclude that the impact of emotional loneliness on sleep quality in older adults is partly because of the stress experienced as a result of feeling lonely.

Statement of contribution

What is already known on this subject? Loneliness is associated with poor sleep quality. Perceived stress is also associated with poor sleep quality. Sleep quality is a significant issue among older adults.

What does this study add? Emotional loneliness in particular predicts poor sleep quality at follow-up. This relationship is mediated by perceived stress.

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