Loneliness and emotion regulation

David A. Preece, Amit Goldenberg, Rodrigo Becerra, Mark Boyes, Penelope Hasking, James J. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Loneliness is a risk factor for mental disorders and is a significant and growing public health issue, but to date, loneliness interventions have had limited success. We propose that an emotion regulation perspective might be useful for understanding loneliness and for suggesting new treatment targets. In this study, our aim was to test the basis for this proposal by examining whether individual differences in emotion regulation strategy use can explain significant variance in loneliness, and to establish what profile of strategy use might characterize loneliness. We administered a comprehensive battery of loneliness and emotion regulation questionnaires to 501 adults. In a regression model, emotion regulation strategy use accounted for over half (52.2%) the variance in loneliness. A latent profile analysis revealed four profiles, with the “high loneliness” profile characterized cognitively by greater use of rumination, catastrophising, blame-attribution, and lesser use of cognitive reappraisal type strategies. Behaviorally, loneliness was characterised by greater use of expressive suppression, and regulating emotions by actively rejecting or withdrawing from others. We conclude that individual differences in emotion regulation may play an important role in explaining loneliness, and could therefore represent a promising treatment target.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110974
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Volume180
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

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