A short scale for measuring loneliness in large surveys: Results from two population-based studies

Mary Elizabeth Hughes, Linda J. Waite, Louise C. Hawkley, John T. Cacioppo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1071 Scopus citations


Most studies of social relationships in later life focus on the amount of social contact, not on individuals' perceptions of social isolation. However, loneliness is likely to be an important aspect of aging. A major limiting factor in studying loneliness has been the lack of a measure suitable for large-scale social surveys. This article describes a short loneliness scale developed specifically for use on a telephone survey. The scale has three items and a simplified set of response categories but appears to measure overall loneliness quite well. The authors also document the relationship between loneliness and several commonly used measures of objective social isolation. As expected, they find that objective and subjective isolation are related. However, the relationship is relatively modest, indicating that the quantitative and qualitative aspects of social relationships are distinct. This result suggests the importance of studying both dimensions of social relationships in the aging process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)655-672
Number of pages18
JournalResearch on aging
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Loneliness
  • Measurement
  • Social isolation
  • Social network index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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