Loneliness as a Component of Psychiatric Disorders

Richard Booth, PhD


Medscape General Medicine. 2000;2(2) 

In This Article

The Relational Deficiency Dimension

The relational deficiency model suggests that lonely people have fewer relationships in their lives than nonlonely people, and comports with the lay notion of lonely people as social isolates who have virtually no social support networks. Russell found, in support of this model, that lonely people spend more time alone each day, eat dinner alone more frequently, and spend weekend evenings alone more often than nonlonely people. In some groups of professionals, the less support individuals have in their lives, the greater their loneliness.[14,15] Larson and Czikszentmihalyi[16] also found higher loneliness levels in adolescents who spent Friday and Saturday nights alone, which may suggest the role of cultural expectations about going out on certain days of the week. Jong-Gierveld and Raadschelders[11] found that their least lonely group appeared to possess a fairly extensive network of different kinds of relationships as well as an intimate other in their lives. Interestingly, one of their severely lonely groups did possess peer networks but were dissatisfied with them, and had no intimate other. These findings suggest that, as might be expected, having "a significant other" in our lives is important in offsetting loneliness, but we may require a varied group of persons with which we are deeply satisfied in order to diminish loneliness. It may well be that simply having people in our lives is insufficient; perhaps they need to be persons whom we perceive to be able to satisfy our needs for close, intimate contact. Cutrona[7] found that satisfaction with relationships was more strongly and negatively associated with loneliness than was frequency of contact, and Jones'[9] work supports the importance of the diversity of relationships discussed above.