Background: Hopelessness and loneliness are potent risk factors for poor mental and physical health in later life, although the nature of their relationships with each other over time is not clear. The aim of the current study was to examine relationships between hopelessness and loneliness over an eight-year study period. Methods: Three waves of data from the US Health and Retirement Study (2006, 2010, 2014) were used to test a cross-lagged model of hopelessness and loneliness (N = 7,831), which allows for the simultaneous evaluation of the reciprocal associations of loneliness and hopelessness. Age in 2006, gender, years of education, number of medical conditions, and depressive symptoms were included as covariates. Results: The autoregressive effects of loneliness (B (SE) = 0.63 (0.02), p < 0.001) and hopelessness (B (SE) = 0.63 (0.02), p < 0.001) were substantive and significant across the three waves, pointing to the stability of both constructs over the eight-year study period. The lagged effect of loneliness on hopelessness was non-significant (B (SE) = 0.05 (0.03), p = 0.16), whereas the lagged effect of hopelessness on loneliness was significant (B (SE) = 0.01 (0.01), p = 0.03). These lagged effects were not significantly different from each other, however, χ2 (1) = 2.016, p = 0.156. Conclusions: Participants who were more hopeless tended to become lonelier four years later, but lonelier participants did not become more hopeless four years later. Findings are tentative given the small magnitude and lack of difference between the cross-lagged effects. Future directions include replicating these findings in different samples and time frames, examining potential mechanisms of relationships between hopelessness and loneliness, and potential intervention strategies that might improve both conditions.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The HRS is supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA U01AG009740) and the Social Security Administration. Amber Gum was supported by a 2015-2016 Fulbright Core Scholar Award from the US Department of State to Bar-Ilan University during the preparation of this manuscript.
© Copyright International Psychogeriatric Association 2017.
- health and retirement study