The Long Shadow: Early Life Adversity and Later Life Loneliness in the United States.

TitleThe Long Shadow: Early Life Adversity and Later Life Loneliness in the United States.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsFuruya, S, Wang, J
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology, Series B
ISSN Number1758-5368
KeywordsChildhood adversity, life course, Loneliness

OBJECTIVES: This study assesses how early life adversity (ELA) is associated with later life loneliness among those aged 55 and over in the U.S. We consider multiple domains of ELA to understand domain-specific associations between ELA and later life loneliness.

METHODS: Using data from the 2008 to 2016 rounds of Health and Retirement Study (n = 29,661 person-waves (weighted)), we evaluate whether and how different domains of ELA are associated with loneliness, and how their relationships are explained through adulthood conditions and are dependent upon educational attainment.

RESULTS: Our analyses demonstrate significant and distinctive relationships between various domains of ELA and later life loneliness. Whereas adulthood conditions largely explain positive associations between loneliness with some domains of ELA (socioeconomic disadvantages and chronic diseases), disruptive home environment, risky adolescent behaviors, and impairment during childhood are still related to a higher level of loneliness after controlling for adulthood conditions. We also find empirical evidence supporting educational differences in relationships between some ELA domains and later life loneliness. Our results also show that the associations between ELA and later life loneliness differ between subdimensions of loneliness (emotional versus social loneliness).

DISCUSSION: This study underscores ELA as an important early life risk factor contributing to later life loneliness. Our findings suggest that policy interventions to reduce adverse childhood experiences may alleviate individuals' exposure to loneliness in later life.

Citation Key12787
PubMed ID36239446