Experience of loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic: a cross-sectional study of 50 968 adult Danes

Lea A.N. Christoffersen, Dorte Helenius, Michael Schwinn, Christian Erikstrup, Henrik Hjalgrim, Janna Nissen, Karina Banasik, Kaspar Nielsen, Kathrine A. Kaspersen, Khoa M. Dinh, Mie T. Bruun, Sisse R. Ostrowski, Susanne Sækmose, Thomas F. Hansen, Thomas Werge, Maria Didriksen, Ole Birger Pedersen

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Objectives To examine the level of loneliness experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic in Denmark and to identify associated behavioural patterns and demographic factors. Design Cross-sectional cohort study. Setting Includes Danish active and former blood donors. Participants A questionnaire was sent to 124 307 active and former blood donors, of these a total of 50 968 participants completed the study questionnaire (response rate=41%). Primary and secondary outcome measures Subjective experience of loneliness was measured using the 3-item University of California, Los Angeles Loneliness Scale (UCLA-3). Besides the UCLA-3, the respondents answered items on sociodemographic and economic characteristics, items on precautionary measures taken to avoid COVID-19 infection as well as on COVID-19 anxiety. Results The participants indicated their experienced level of loneliness both before and during the pandemic. Comparing the two reports yielded a mean increase in loneliness scores of 14.1% (p<0.001). Exploratory factor analysis identified the factor well-being, which comprised three questionnaire items related to emotional heath, physical health and happiness. A high score on the factor well-being was associated with reduced levels of loneliness (coefficient=-0.47, 95% CI -0.49 to -0.46)). Furthermore, women were more likely than men to have experienced increased levels of loneliness during the pandemic (coefficient=0.27, 95% CI 0.25 to 0.29). Furthermore, a negative correlation between higher age and change in loneliness score was observed. Conclusions The findings document an increase in the level of experienced loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly affecting individuals with low well-being, women and younger individuals.

TidsskriftBMJ Open
Antal sider9
StatusUdgivet - apr. 2023


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