Loneliness, social isolation and ageing: a methodological approach to compare Latvian and Icelandic older populations in the course of COVID-19 pandemic

Ieva Reine (Coresponding Author), Madara Miķelsone, Helgi Guðmundsson, Andrejs Ivanovs, Signe Tomsone, Halldór S Guðmundsson

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Background Feelings of loneliness and social isolation are common among the elderly, affecting both health and wellbeing. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered social connections through health precautions, restrictions and other factors. However, limited research has been conducted on how older people's health and wellbeing in different countries has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of this study was to develop methodology that would allow us to compare elderly populations, aged 67 + in Latvia and Iceland, and to discuss the potential impact of diverging factors on the association between loneliness, social isolation and health. Methods Quantitative data on 420 respondents from Wave 8 of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) was utilized in Latvia. Data on health and wellbeing of elderly in Iceland from a HL20 study with 1033 respondents was used to provide comparative analytic material for studying the differences between Latvia and Iceland, and within each country. Results The study revealed considerable differences between the countries regarding the frequency of loneliness and social isolation. About 80% of Latvian respondents felt socially isolated and 45% were lonely, compared to 42.7% socially isolated and 30% lonely Icelanders. In general, more elderly people in Latvia experienced difficulties than their peers in Iceland. Social isolation tends to differ across genders and age groups in both countries. This is related to marital and employment status, financial situation, and education. COVID-19 had a stronger deteriorating effect on mental and physical health among both lonely Latvian and Icelandic respondents. However, health deterioration was stronger amongst more socially isolated Icelanders compared to Latvians. Conclusions The study suggests that social isolation is a contributing factor and increases the risk of loneliness, which might have been enhanced by restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherResearch Square
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2023

Field of Science*

  • 3.3 Health sciences

Publication Type*

  • 6. Other publications


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