The link between social anxiety and intimate loneliness is stronger for older adults than for younger adults

Y. S.G. Hoffman, E. S. Grossman, Y. S. Bergman, E. Bodner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objectives: The current study focuses on the association between social anxiety (e.g. fear of social interactions or negative judgment by others) and intimate loneliness (lacking meaningful relationships, i.e. having low quantity/quality of intimate companionship) in older and younger adults. We assessed whether social anxiety, a factor which hampers intimacy, may be associated with intimate loneliness to a greater extent in older adults versus younger adults. Method: Measures of loneliness (Revised UCLA loneliness scale) and social anxiety (Leibowitz social anxiety scale) were obtained from 342 participants (220 younger adults, age = 19–40, and 122 older adults, age = 61–89). Results: Age differences were evident for non-intimate types of loneliness but not for intimate loneliness. Further, older adults were less socially anxious. Critically, the strength of the social anxiety-intimate loneliness link was more robust among older adults. Effects remained significant after controlling for demographic and computer/social media variables. Conclusions: Older adults with high levels of social anxiety displayed greater intimate loneliness relative to younger adults. On a theoretical level, the results reveal that the pruning mechanism of investing more in closer and more rewarding relationships among older adults may be challenged under high social anxiety. The results suggest that older adults with higher intimate loneliness may benefit from interventions aimed at decreasing their social anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1246-1253
Number of pages8
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2021


  • Loneliness
  • older adults
  • social anxiety


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