Socioeconomic Status ‘s Impact on the Experience of Loneliness


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Socioeconomic Status’s Impact on the Experience of Loneliness is a well-researched Art AND Humanities Thesis/Dissertation topic, it is to be used as a guide or framework for your Academic Research.


There has been a considerable amount of research about loneliness, yet much of the research is inconclusive and some is even contradictory (Agnew 1980, Andersson 1998, Benner and Wang 2014, Berkman and Glass 2000, Borys and Perlman 1985, Cacioppo et al.

2009, Hawkley et al. 2008, Hughes et al. 2004, Kawachi and Berkman 2000, Kearns et al. 2015, Putnam 2002). The connotation associated with loneliness is negative but beyond that the interpretation takes many different shapes and meanings for people: being physically alone or isolated, perceiving a lack of support, lacking financial assistance, an emotional solace, discerning a lack of belonging in a community, or believing they are misunderstood (Kearns et al. 2015).

The subjective nature of loneliness makes it a difficult variable to measure. This has led to the research behind the experience of loneliness to be contested, muddled, and even, at times, opposed.

The most concrete understanding of loneliness have come out of the field of gerontology (Hawkley et al. 2008). These studies display substantial evidence that once people reach a certain age they are more likely to experience loneliness (Hawkley et al. 2008, de Jong Gierveld et al. 2006, Jones et al. 1981). Elderly populations are at high risk of experiencing severe and prolonged loneliness (Hawkley et al. 2008, Lee and Ishii-Kintz 1988).

This is often times due to social isolation from lack of mobility, loss of spouse and friends, and increased health issues (Hawkley et al. 2008, Lee and Ishii-Kuntz 1988). In addition to aging (Hawkley et al. 2008) and social isolation (Kearns et al. 2015): race (Benner and Wang 2014), mental health (Cacioppo et al. 2009), disability (Jones et al. 1981), and gender (Borys and Perlman 1985) have been studied as independent variables.

Within the broad scope of research on loneliness there has been little research on how socioeconomic status impacts the experience of loneliness. Other studies, like

Challenges in Studying Loneliness:

Due to the subjective nature of loneliness and the accompanying challenges of measuring feelings and perspectives (Cacioppo et al. 2009, Benner and Wang 2014, Andersson 1998), research on loneliness is often inconclusive and sometimes contradictory (Andersson 1998, Hawkley et al. 2008, Kearns et al. 2015).

However, there are certain measures of loneliness that have predictor variables that do sustain clear results. Loneliness studies in the field of gerontology showcase an indisputable relationship that growing old increases one’s vulnerability to the experience of loneliness (Lee and Ishii-Kuntz 1987, Hawkley et al. 2008).

Lee and I ship Kuntz (1987) and Hawkley et al. (2008) have found that elderly people have a higher risk of experiencing loneliness due to limited mobility resulting in restricted access to social engagements.

The capacity to study loneliness in the field of gerontology is more straightforward due to the simplicity and objectivity of the predictor variables: limited mobility and friends and/or spouse passing away (Lee and Ishii-Kuntz 1987, Hawkley et al. 2008, Andersson 1998).

One example of the complexity that appears when studying loneliness is the results of how gender impacts the experience of loneliness (Hawkley et al. 2008, Cacioppo et al. 2009, Andersson 1998, Benner and Wang 2014, Burke et al. 2010, Borys and Perlman1985).

Researches such as Hawkley et al. (2008) and Cacioppo et al. (2009: 9) have found that women experience more intense feelings of loneliness, while other researchers such as Kearns et al. (2015), Forest and Kearns (2001), and Borys and Perlman (1985) have seen that men are more prone to loneliness.

Andersson (1998) briefly touches on gender as a predictor variable, stating that “most studies show that women report loneliness to a higher extent than men, some studies report no differences (267).” One variable that the Andersson (1998) article touches on is that men may be less likely to open up about their experience with loneliness due to ingratiated social norms of how men are expected to express their feelings.

One possible discussion is that men experience loneliness at a higher level than women do, but when women are subject to feelings of loneliness the experience is more intense and destructive than it is for men (Borys and Perlman 1985, Jones et al 1981).

In conclusion, no-one is entirely sure how gender serves as a predictor variable for the experience of loneliness. These studies (Andersson 1998, Borys and Perlman 1985, Jones et al 1981) have produced contradictory results which exhibits some of the challenges in measuring a subjective and constantly changing variable such as loneliness.

While often conflated, loneliness, isolation, and depression are their own separate States (Andersson 1998: 265, Hawkley et al. 2008: 375). And each of those circumstances are experienced differently depending on other variables.

Emotional isolation is an “absence of an attachment figure in one’s life (Andersson 1998: 265)” whereas social isolation is either when one is not in a community that is accepting of them or if they are physically removed from or have minimal forms of social interaction (Kearns et al. 2015, Cacioppo et al. 2009, Andersson 1998).

Emotional isolation is when there isn’t someone who is supportive — this could take the form of emotional or verbal abuse — while social isolation is when someone is truly physically alone.

While social isolation, emotional isolation, and depression are often times associated with the experience of loneliness, they are not always correlated. Being able to isolate and study the subjective feeling of loneliness, and account accurately for depression, poses a methodological and data analysis vexation (Hawkley et al. 2018, Andersson 1998, Kearns et al. 2015, Burke et al. 2010).

It is logical for these four states to connect and impact one another, as they often do (Andersson 1998, Jones et al. 1981, Burke et al. 2010). If one is socially or emotionally isolated and lacks a support system or a form of affirmation it is not far-fetched to predict that that person will experience loneliness.

Consequently experiencing loneliness is adverse and can be all-consuming which can lead to depression (Hawkley et al. 2018). Social isolation, emotional isolation, depression, and loneliness are deeply intertwined which is another challenge in studying and isolating this variable.

As Andersson (1998) points out the complexity of studying loneliness: “the relationship between the objective manifestation of being alone and the subjective manifestation of experiencing loneliness is fundamental to the understanding of the problem (266).” Someone who lives alone may experience loneliness or they may not, on the other hand someone who is experiencing loneliness may live alone or they may not (Andersson 1998, Gieverld et al. 2006).

While there is a correlation between the variables and patterns of social and emotional isolation serving as predictor variables for feeling lonely, there are no definitive answers to the relationship between depression, social isolation, emotional isolation, and loneliness.

Measuring loneliness as its own variable is difficult and there are n0 clear methodologies in place to do this.

The complex and nebulous research behind the predictor variables to determine who are the most prone to the experience of loneliness leave not only understanding the relationship between socioeconomic status and loneliness as a point of unmapped research but it also exposes the
literature gap in defining loneliness. Loneliness as an entity is subjective and therefore arduous to study.

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