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Rev Esp Geriatr Gerontol. 2010 Jul-Aug;45(4):189-95. doi: 10.1016/j.regg.2010.02.010. Epub 2010 Apr 28.

[Loneliness among the elderly in Spain and Sweden: context and culture].

[Article in Spanish]

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Instituto Gerontológico Matia (INGEMA), Madrid, Spain.



Older people in Spain and other Southern European countries are reported to feel lonelier than the older people in the North of Europe. Data from the 1970s and onwards consistently show this. The present study explores feelings of loneliness as a product of both cultural and situational determining factors, by comparing survey data for Spain and Sweden.


Data derived from several national surveys of the older people in Spain and Sweden with questions about loneliness. For closer analysis we use the Spanish 2006 Encuesta de Condiciones de Vida (Living conditions Questionnaire), and the Swedish 2002-2003 Survey of Living Conditions.


On average, 24% of older people in Spain and 10% of elderly Swedish people expressed sentiments of loneliness in the surveys used here (2006 and 2002-03 respectively). Living arrangements and perceived health are related with factors of loneliness in both countries, although levels differ. For example, people in good health who live alone are five times more likely to feel lonely in Spain (45%) than in Sweden (9%) and two-three times more likely when living alone in poor health (82% and 32% respectively). People in good health who live with their spouse/partner only are equally unlikely in both Spain and Sweden to express loneliness (4-5%). It often seems--when it occurs--to be due to caring for a spouse/partner, or problems in the relationship.


Results highlight the importance of contextual features--health and living arrangements--and cultural expectations in interpreting reported loneliness.

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