Loneliness: Its Correlates and Association with Health Behaviours and Outcomes in Nine Countries of the Former Soviet Union

Andrew Stickley, Ai Koyanagi, Bayard Roberts, Pamela Abbott, Sergei Tumenov, Martin Mckee

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Research suggests that the prevalence of loneliness varies between countries and that feeling lonely may be associated with poorer health behaviours and outcomes. The aim of the current study was to examine the factors associated with loneliness, and the relationship between feeling lonely and health behaviours and outcomes in the countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU) – a region where loneliness has been little studied to date.

Using data from 18,000 respondents collected during a cross-sectional survey undertaken in nine FSU countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine – in 2010/11, country-wise logistic regression analysis was conducted to determine: the factors associated with feeling lonely; the association between feeling lonely and alcohol consumption, hazardous drinking and smoking; and whether feeling lonely was linked to poorer health (i.e. poor self-rated health and psychological distress).

The prevalence of loneliness varied widely among the countries. Being divorced/widowed and low social support were associated with loneliness in all of the countries, while other factors (e.g. living alone, low locus of control) were linked to loneliness in some of the countries. Feeling lonely was connected with hazardous drinking in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Russia but with smoking only in Kyrgyzstan. Loneliness was associated with psychological distress in all of the countries and poor self-rated health in every country except Kazakhstan and Moldova.

Loneliness is associated with worse health behaviours and poorer health in the countries of the FSU. More individual country-level research is now needed to formulate effective interventions to mitigate the negative effects of loneliness on population well-being in the FSU.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere67978
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding: Andrew Stickley’s work was supported by the Swedish Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies [Health and Population Developments in Eastern Europe–grant number A052-10].The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


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