Posttraumatic stress disorder and loneliness are associated over time: A longitudinal study on PTSD symptoms and loneliness, among older adults

Robert Fox*, Joanna McHugh Power, Andrew N. Coogan, Aartjan T. F. Beekman, Theo G. van Tilburg, Philip Hyland

*Corresponding author for this work

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Loneliness has a pernicious effect on mental health in later life and is likely to have a bidirectional relationship with psychopathology. However, longitudinal research examining loneliness and posttraumatic stress symptoms among older adults is scarce. This study aimed to examine the longitudinal relationship between different types of loneliness (social and emotional) and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Using two waves of an older adult sample (n = 1,276) from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA), this longitudinal relationship was examined using a multivariate two wave-latent change score (2W-LCS) model. There were significant, however, very small increases in both posttraumatic stress symptoms and emotional loneliness over time, whereas, average social loneliness scores did not significantly increase/decrease over time. Changes in both social (β = .16) and emotional loneliness (β = .15) were associated with small changes in posttraumatic stress symptoms, consistent with the existence of a longitudinal association between the constructs, net of covariate effects. Results provide evidence of the existence of a longitudinal association between subtypes of loneliness and posttraumatic stress symptoms, among older adults. Results have implications for clinicians who should identify individuals at risk of developing posttraumatic stress symptoms, and for the theory of both posttraumatic stress disorder and loneliness.
Original languageEnglish
Article number113846
JournalPsychiatry Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021

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