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Italians- Social and Emotional Loneliness: The Results of Five Studies

Authors: Vanda Lucia Zammuner


Subjective loneliness describes people who feel a disagreeable or unacceptable lack of meaningful social relationships, both at the quantitative and qualitative level. The studies to be presented tested an Italian 18-items self-report loneliness measure, that included items adapted from scales previously developed, namely a short version of the UCLA (Russell, Peplau and Cutrona, 1980), and the 11-items Loneliness scale by De Jong-Gierveld & Kamphuis (JGLS; 1985). The studies aimed at testing the developed scale and at verifying whether loneliness is better conceptualized as a unidimensional (so-called 'general loneliness') or a bidimensional construct, namely comprising the distinct facets of social and emotional loneliness. The loneliness questionnaire included 2 singleitem criterion measures of sad mood, and social contact, and asked participants to supply information on a number of socio-demographic variables. Factorial analyses of responses obtained in two preliminary studies, with 59 and 143 Italian participants respectively, showed good factor loadings and subscale reliability and confirmed that perceived loneliness has clearly two components, a social and an emotional one, the latter measured by two subscales, a 7-item 'general' loneliness subscale derived from UCLA, and a 6–item 'emotional' scale included in the JGLS. Results further showed that type and amount of loneliness are related, negatively, to frequency of social contacts, and, positively, to sad mood. In a third study data were obtained from a nation-wide sample of 9.097 Italian subjects, 12 to about 70 year-olds, who filled the test on-line, on the Italian web site of a large-audience magazine, Focus. The results again confirmed the reliability of the component subscales, namely social, emotional, and 'general' loneliness, and showed that they were highly correlated with each other, especially the latter two. Loneliness scores were significantly predicted by sex, age, education level, sad mood and social contact, and, less so, by other variables – e.g., geographical area and profession. The scale validity was confirmed by the results of a fourth study, with elderly men and women (N 105) living at home or in residential care units. The three subscales were significantly related, among others, to depression, and to various measures of the extension of, and satisfaction with, social contacts with relatives and friends. Finally, a fifth study with 315 career-starters showed that social and emotional loneliness correlate with life satisfaction, and with measures of emotional intelligence. Altogether the results showed a good validity and reliability in the tested samples of the entire scale, and of its components.

Keywords: Emotional loneliness, social loneliness, scale development and testing, life span and cultural differences

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