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J Psychosom Res. 1985;29(1):33-42.

Loneliness, birth order and social loss among a group of elderly women.


This paper is concerned with birth order as a childhood experience which may effect how and when older adults experience loneliness. In this study 207 elderly women (mean age 77) were studied in terms of birth order, social loss, depressive disorder and loneliness. As hypothesized, firstborns will experience less loneliness than laterborns under socially stable circumstances. But, after a social loss, firstborns are likely to experience more loneliness than laterborns. The effect of social loss and loneliness was also examined in terms of two health outcome variables--depressive disorder and physical complaints. No direct or indirect (via loneliness) effect of social loss on the health variables was found. Loneliness was found to have an effect on depressive disorder but not on physical complaints. Finally, for firstborns an interaction between social loss and loneliness was observed on physical complaint outcomes.

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