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Catherine Whitehouse

Doctor of Clinical Psychology, (Psychology)
Study Completed: 2019
College of Humanities & Social Sciences


Thesis Title
The impact of social relationships on cognitive performance in the older adult: Emotional loneliness is detrimental to cognitive performance

Read article at Massey Research Online: MRO icon

Modern life in developed countries has increased the likelihood of older adults becoming socially isolated or lonely. Social isolation and loneliness appear to be risk factors for poorer cognitive functioning. However, little research has assessed the relative and synergistic impact of different forms of loneliness and social isolation on cognition. Ms Whitehouse investigated the relationship between emotional loneliness, social loneliness, social isolation, and cognition in adults 65 years and over. She found that emotional loneliness, but not social loneliness or social isolation, was associated with poorer cognition. Older adults who were emotionally lonely but not socially isolated had poorer cognitive performance than those who were emotionally lonely and socially isolated. Her research showed that being lonely in a crowd is worse than being lonely and alone. The results highlight the need to assess older adults for loneliness and social isolation and the importance of close confidants for the older adult.

Dr Stephen Hill
Professor Fiona Alpass
Associate Professor Joanne Taylor

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