The socioeconomic consequences of loneliness: evidence from a nationally representative longitudinal study of young adults

Bridget Bryan, Katie Thompson, Sidra Goldman-Mellor, Terrie Moffitt, Candice Odgers, Sincere Long Shin So, Momtahena Uddin Rahmana, jasmin wertz, Timothy Matthews, Louise Arseneault*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The negative health consequences of loneliness have led to increasing concern about the economic cost of loneliness in recent years. Loneliness may also incur an economic burden more directly, by impacting socioeconomic position. Much of the research to date has focused on employment status which may not fully capture socioeconomic position and has relied on cross-sectional data, leaving questions around the robustness of the association and reverse causation. The present study used longitudinal data to test prospective associations between loneliness and multiple indicators of social position in young adulthood, specifically, whether participants who were lonelier at age 12 were more likely to be out of employment, education and training (NEET) and lower on employability and subjective social status as young adults. The data were drawn from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, a birth cohort of 2,232 individuals born in England and Wales during 1994–1995. Loneliness and subjective social status were measured at ages 12, 18 and 26. Employability and NEET status were assessed at age 18. Findings indicate that greater loneliness at age 12 was prospectively associated with reduced employability and lower social status in young adulthood. The association between loneliness and lower social status in young adulthood was robust when controlling for a range of confounders using a sibling-control design. Results also indicate that loneliness is unidirectionally associated with reduced subjective social status across adolescence and young adulthood. Overall, our findings suggest that loneliness may have direct costs to the economy resulting from reduced employability and social position, underlining the importance of addressing loneliness early in life.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Feb 2024

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