Is Loneliness an Undervalued Pathway between Socio-Economic Disadvantage and Health?

Rachelle Meisters*, Polina Putrik, Daan Westra, Hans Bosma, Dirk Ruwaard, Maria Jansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Loneliness is a growing public health issue. It is more common in disadvantaged groups and has been associated with a range of poor health outcomes. Loneliness may also form an independent pathway between socio-economic disadvantage and poor health. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore the contribution of loneliness to socio-economic health inequalities. These contributions were studied in a Dutch national sample (n = 445,748 adults (≥19 y.o.)) in Poisson and logistic regression models, controlling for age, gender, marital status, migration background, BMI, alcohol consumption, smoking, and physical activity. Loneliness explained 21% of socioeconomic health inequalities between the lowest and highest socio-economic groups in self-reported chronic disease prevalence, 27% in poorer self-rated health, and 51% in psychological distress. Subgroup analyses revealed that for young adults, loneliness had a larger contribution to socioeconomic gaps in self-rated health (37%) than in 80+-year-olds (16%). Our findings suggest that loneliness may be a social determinant of health, contributing to the socioeconomic health gap independently of well-documented factors such as lifestyles and demographics, in particular for young adults. Public health policies targeting socioeconomic health inequalities could benefit from integrating loneliness into their policies, especially for young adults.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10177
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Loneliness
  • Self Report
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult
  • SES
  • The Netherlands
  • social determinants of health
  • TIME
  • loneliness
  • lifestyle
  • socioeconomic health inequalities

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