Exploring the Nature and Variation of the Stigma Associated with Loneliness

Manuela Barreto, Jolien van Breen, Christina Victor, Claudia Hammond, Alice M Eccles, Matthew T. Richins, Pamela Qualter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study uses data from The BBC Loneliness Experiment to explore the social stigma of loneliness and how it varies by gender, age, and cultural individualism. We examined stigmatizing judgements of people who are lonely (impressions of those who feel lonely and attributions for loneliness), perceived stigma in the community, and self-stigma (shame for being lonely and inclination to conceal loneliness), while controlling for participants’ own feelings of loneliness. The scores on most measures fell near the mid-point of the scales, but stigmatizing perceptions depended on the measure of stigmatization that was used and on age, gender, and country-level individualism. Multi-level analyses revealed that men had more stigmatizing perceptions, more perceived community stigma, but less self-stigma than women; young people had higher scores than older people on all indicators except for internal vs external attributions; and people living in collectivist countries perceived loneliness as more controllable and perceived more stigma in the community than people living in individualistic countries. Finally, young men living in individualistic countries made the most internal (vs. external) attributions for loneliness. We discuss the implications of these findings for understandings of loneliness stigma and interventions to address loneliness.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 25 Feb 2022


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