Loneliness Trajectories, Associated Factors and Subsequent Health in Children and Young People During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A National Matched Cohort Study.

Schneider V, Norris T, Nugawela M, Dalrymple E, Hargreaves D, Käll A, McOwat K, Shafran R, Stephenson T, Xu L, Pinto Pereira SM, CLoCk Consortium members

Psychol Res Behav Manag 16 (-) 4461-4477 [2023-11-01; online 2023-11-01]

Loneliness is common amongst children and young people (CYP) and is an independent risk factor for poor health. This study aimed to i) determine whether subgroups of CYP with different loneliness trajectories (during the second year of the pandemic) exist; ii) examine associations with socio-demographic characteristics and subsequent health; and iii) understand whether associations between loneliness and subsequent health were modified by SARS-CoV-2 infection. A total of 5851 CYP (N=3260 SARS-CoV-2 positive and 2591 SARS-CoV-2 negative) provided data on loneliness (via the validated 3-item version of the UCLA Loneliness Scale for Children) at least twice in a 12-month period post PCR index-testing (conducted October 2020-March 2021). Latent class growth analyses were used to identify distinct classes of loneliness trajectories. Multinomial logistic regression was used to identify socio-demographic characteristics associated with class membership. Logistic regression models assessed the odds of reporting impairing symptoms 12-months post index-test. Four distinct loneliness trajectories were identified: three mostly stable (low, medium, high) and one low-increasing trajectory. Being older, female, living in more deprived areas and testing negative were associated with greater odds of being in the highest vs lowest loneliness trajectory; eg OR for female vs male: 5.6 (95% CI:4.1,7.8); OR for 15-17 vs 11-14 years: 4.5 (95% CI:3.4,6.0). Following higher loneliness trajectories was associated with higher odds of experiencing impairing symptoms 12-months post index-test: ORadjusted (compared to lowest loneliness trajectory) were 15.9 (95% CI:11.9,21.3) (high loneliness), 6.5 (5.3,7.9) (medium loneliness) and 2.3 (1.9,2.8) (low-increasing loneliness). There was no evidence that this association was modified by PCR index-test result. About 5.3% of CYP were classified into a group experiencing (chronically) high loneliness. Being female, older and from more deprived areas were risk factors of belonging to this group. Results suggest that even small increases from low loneliness levels may be associated with worse health outcomes.

Category: Social Science & Humanities

Type: Journal article

PubMed 37936971

DOI 10.2147/PRBM.S421165

Crossref 10.2147/PRBM.S421165

pmc: PMC10626032
pii: 421165

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