Perception of loneliness in the elderly: a qualitative study

Section: Originals

How to quote

Giménez Ledo AJ, Calvo Ascarza A. Percepción de soledad en personas mayores: estudio cualitativo. RIdEC 2020; 13(1):80-90.


1 Álvaro Jesús Giménez Ledo, 1 Andrea Calvo Ascarza


1 Enfermero/a especialista en Enfermería Familiar y Comunitaria. Institut Català de la Salut (ICS). SAP Baix Llobregat Centre. Barcelona

Contact email:


Purpose: to understand the experience of loneliness from the perspective of people over 65 living alone.
Methods: a study using a phenomenological qualitative design. Two methodologies were proposed: a first phase at an individual level in the nursing office, where details were collected through semi-structured interviews; and a second phase by means of three focus groups participating in a community intervention group. A convenience sampling was used in people meeting all inclusion and exclusion criteria. Data analysis involved representing all relevant data and determining appropriate categories by manual coding.
Results: results were stratified into categories, such as coping with loneliness, psychological aspects, family network, social network and others. Strengths and weaknesses were identified, with low self-esteem due to the process, social isolation, and self-care impairment being the most significant ones. Besides, the perception of the professionals and the impact of a community intervention were reflected, and the personal satisfaction derived from participating in sharing experiences and feeling understood in a context similar to that in which they are living was observed.
Conclusion: in the context of loneliness, a need for support that they do not find in their environment has been reported. Thus, community nurses play a key role in strengthening the mental and physical health of people suffering from loneliness by fostering personal autonomy and social relationships through the promotion of interventions by and for the community.


loneliness; social isolation; ageingcommunity health nursing

Versión en Español


Percepción de soledad en personas mayores: estudio cualitativo

Artículo completo no disponible en este idioma / Full article is not available in this language


[1]    Perlman LA. Perspectives on lone-liness. En: Peplau LA, Perlman D (eds.). Loneliness: A Sourcebook of Current Theory, Re-search and Therapy. New York: Wiley; 1982. p. 1-8.
[2]    Hawkley LC, Capitanio JP. Perceived social isolation, evolutionary fitness and health outcomes: a lifespan approach. Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci [internet]. 2015 [citado 8 may 2020]; 370(1669):20140114. Disponible en:
[3]    Ong AD, Uchino BN, Wethington E. Loneliness and health in older adults: a mini-review and synthesis. Gerontology 2016; 62(4):443-9. Doi:
[4]    Leigh-Hunt N, Bagguley D, Bash K. An overview of systematic reviews on the public health consequences of social isolation and loneliness. Public Health. 2017; (152):157.71. Doi:
[5]    Coll-Planas L, del Valle Gómez G, Bonilla P, Masat T, Puig T, Monteserin R. Promoting social capital to alleviate loneliness and improve health among older people in Spain. Heal Soc Care Community. 2017; 25(1):145-57. Doi:
[6]    Vidal Domínguez MJ, Labeaga Azcona JM, Casado Durandez P, Madrigal Muñoz A, López Doblas J, Montero Navarro A, et al. Informe 2017: las personas mayores en España. Datos estadísticos estatales y por comunidades autónomas [internet]. Madrid: Ministerio Sanidad, Servicios Sociales e Igual; 2017. [citado 8 may 2020]. Disponible en:
[7]    Institut d’Estadística de Catalunya, IDESCAT. Población de 20 años y más que vive sola por sexo y grupos de edad [internet]. IDESCAT 2018 [citado 8 may 2020]. Disponible en:
[8]    Puig Llobet M, Lluch Canut MT, Rodríguez Ávila N. Valoración de enfermería: detección de la soledad y del aislamiento social en los ancianos de riesgo. Gerokomos [internet]. 2009 Mar [citado 8 may 2020]; 20(1):9-14. Disponible en:
[9]    Álvarez González R, Cullell Pares M, De Frutos Gallego E, Fabretat Casamitjana M,  Ramírez Llaras A. 1. Envejecimiento y soledad. Enferm Global. 2009; 8(3). Doi:
[10]    Rodríguez Martín M. La soledad en el anciano. Gerokomos [internet]. 2009 Dic [citado 8 may 2020]; 20(4):159-66. Disponible en:
[11]    Masi CM, Chen HY, Hawkley LC, Cacioppo JT. A meta-analysis of interventions to reduce loneliness. Personal Soc Psychol Rev [internet]. 2011 [citado 8 may 2020]; 15(3). Disponible en:
[12]    López Doblas J, Díaz Conde M del P. Viudedad, soledad y salud en la vejez. Rev Esp Geriatr Gerontol 2018. Doi:
[13]    Burholt V ST. Poor health and loneliness in later life: The role of depressive symptoms, social resources, and rural environments. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2014; (69):311.24. Doi: http//
[14]    Warner D, Kelley-Moore J. The social context of disablement among older adults: Does marital quality matter for loneliness? J Heal Soc Behav. 2012; (53):50-66. Doi:
[15]    Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Baker M, Harris T, Stephenson D. Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: A meta-analytic review. Perspectives on Psychological Science 2015; (10):227-37. Doi:
[16]    Kido Y. The issue of nutrition in an aging society. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 2015; (61):176-7. Doi: http//
[17]    Ramic E, Pranjic O, Batic-Mujanovic E, Karic E, Alibasic A. The effect of loneliness on malnutrition in elderly population. Med Arh. [internet] 2011 [citado 8 may 2020]; (65):92-5. Disponible en:
[18]    Shor E, Roelfs DJ. Social contact frequency and all-cause mortality: A meta-analysis and meta-regression. Soc Sci Med. 2015; (128):76-86. Doi: http//
[19]    Chen Y, Hicks A, While A. Loneliness and social support of older people in China: a systematic literature review. Heal Soc Care Community. 2013; 22(2):113-23. Doi: http//
[20]    OMS. Envejecimiento activo: un marco político. Rev Esp Geriatr Gerontol. [internet] 2002 [citado 8 may 2020]; 37(S2):74-105. Disponible en:
[21]    Ilgaz A, Gözüm S. Health promotion interventions for older people living alone: a systematic review. Perspect Public Health [internet]. 2019 [citado 8 may 2020]; 139(5):255-63. Disponible en:
[22]    Hashi I. Case management promotion of social media for the elderly who live alone. Prof Case Manag. 2016; 21(2):82-7. Doi: http//
[23]    Berenguera A, Fernández de Sanmamed MJ, Pons M, Pujol E, Rodríguez D, Saura S, et al. To listen, to observe and to understand. bringing back narrative into the health sciences. Contributions of Qualitative Research. Barcelona Inst Univ d’Investigació en Atenció Primària Jordi Gol (IDIAP J Gol), 2017.
[24]    Cohen-Mansfield J, Hazan H, Lerman Y, Shalom V. Correlates and predictors of loneliness in older-adults: a review of quantitative results informed by qualitative insights. International Psychogeriatrics. 2016. Doi: http//
[25]    Hand C, Otreg P, Mccoll MA, Birtwhistle R, Fcfp M, Kotecha Mpa JA, et al. Social isolation in older adults who are frequent users of primary care services [intermet] 2014 [citado 8 may 2020]; 60(6):322-9. Disponible en:
[26]    Cohen-Mansfield J, Hazan H, Lerman Y, Shalom V. Correlates and predictors of loneliness in older-adults: a review of quantitative results informed by qualitative insights. Int Psychogeriatrics [internet]. 2016 [citado 8 may 2020]; 28(4):557-76. Disponible en:
[27]    Klinenberg E. Social Isolation, Loneliness, and Living Alone: Identifying the Risks for Public Health. Am J Public Health. 2016; 106(5).