A systematic literature review on the association between loneliness and coping strategies

Laura Deckx*, Marjan van den Akker, Frank Buntinx, Mieke van Driel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Web of Science)


Loneliness is an emerging and important public health concern associated with increased risk for health disorders and even mortality. Interventions targeting coping strategies might be effective in alleviating feelings of loneliness. However, the relationship between loneliness and coping strategies is not well understood. We systematically reviewed quantitative studies addressing the association between loneliness and coping. Studies were included if loneliness and coping styles were measured with a validated scale and the association between both was assessed quantitatively. We searched Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, Cochrane Library, and CINAHL databases in compliance with the predefined in- and exclusion criteria. Two independent reviewers performed the search, quality appraisal, and data extraction. Coping styles were subdivided according to problem-focused and emotion-focused coping strategies. We included twelve studies that measured the association between loneliness and coping. Half of the studies had low risk of bias (n=6), in the remaining six the risk of bias was moderate (n=1) or high (n=5). All studies that showed a significant association between loneliness and coping consistently showed that problem-focused coping styles were associated with lower levels of loneliness, and emotion-focused coping styles with higher levels of loneliness. Our findings suggest that learning how to use problem-focused coping strategies could be an important aspect of interventions targeting loneliness. This should be further explored in randomized clinical trials. Trials should report changes is coping and changes in loneliness and also include multivariate models that investigate if changes in coping contributed to changes in loneliness. Furthermore, further research should explore the role of different subgroups (e.g. older people), and the role of different types of loneliness as these can affect the effectiveness of loneliness interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)899-916
Number of pages18
JournalPsychology, Health & Medicine
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Loneliness
  • coping
  • systematic review
  • MEN
  • GAY

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