Reviews in Clinical Gerontology

Review Article

A review of loneliness: concept and definitions, determinants and consequences

Jenny de Jong Gierveld a1c1
a1 Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI), The Hague, and Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


The well-being of older adults in general, and their loneliness in particular, are important themes in recent discussions in the Western world. The social integration and participation of older adults in society are seen as indicators of productive aging, and the alleviation of loneliness forms part of policies aimed at achieving the goal of ‘successful’ aging. Discussions about loneliness date back to ancient times, when they were led by philosophers. They wrote primarily about ‘positive’ loneliness. This positive type of loneliness - as indicated in the concept of ‘Einsamkeit’ used in German literature until 1945 - is perceived to be related to the voluntary withdrawal from the daily hassles of life and oriented towards higher goals, such as reflection, meditation and communication with God.

c1 Address for correspondence: Jenny de Jong Gierveld, NIDI, PO Box 11650, 2502 AR The Hague, The Netherlands.