An experimental investigation of the influence of loneliness on changes in belongingness and desire to escape

Anna C. Badcock, Phoebe Carrington-Jones, Werner G.K. Stritzke, Andrew C. Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Loneliness is a well-established risk factor for suicide in young adults, but the mechanisms involved are still unclear. Drawing on the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide, the Evolutionary Model of Loneliness, and Prospect Theory, we examined if high and low levels of loneliness are associated with different patterns of response to losses or gains of belongingness. Methods: A sample of 188 students completed the UCLA-Loneliness scale (version 3) and measures of suicide risk. Participants in the top and bottom tertiles of loneliness scores completed a computerized task designed to induce changes (gains, losses) or consistency in risk factors for suicide (belongingness, burdensomeness) over time, and examined the effect on desire to quit the task. Results: The results showed that the high loneliness group exhibited a larger magnitude of effect on desire to quit from gaining belongingness than for losing belongingness. In contrast, the low loneliness group showed a larger change in desire to quit from losing belongingness than gaining belongingness. Conclusion: The findings provide preliminary experimental support for distinct profiles of suicide risk based on prevailing levels of loneliness. The findings are discussed in relation to a need for increased precision in theoretical models of suicide and loneliness.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSuicide and Life-Threatening Behavior
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Mar 2022

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