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Depending on PTSD-symptoms levels, traumas have a negative or positive impact on loneliness

Published: 24th January 2018 Last updated: 01st May 2019

PRESS RELEASE 24 January 2018 - Loneliness weakens the (mental) health. After traumatic events, some of the victims suffer from loneliness. Victims with very severe PTSD-symptom levels more often suffer from loneliness than victims with very low PTS-symptom levels. But, non-victims more often suffer from loneliness than victims with very low PTS-symptom levels.

These are the main outcomes of a new large prospective study among about 1800 adults in the Netherlands, conducted by Tilburg University. For the present study, data was extracted from the large Longitudinal Internet for the Social Sciences-panel (LISS-panel) based on a traditional random sample of the Dutch population. This study focused on recent traumas, and not on chronic traumas or traumatization during childhood.

The level of loneliness among victims and non-victims was assessed during a period of three years, with a 1-year time interval. We assessed to what extent pre-trauma loneliness and pre-trauma mental health, predicts post-event loneliness one and two years later (post-event). We also examined differences between victims and non-victims. Besides aforementioned results, the analyses showed that existing loneliness is the strongest predictor for post-event loneliness.

To date, this is the first large prospective on the effects of traumatic events on loneliness. Most studies on trauma and loneliness are cross-sectional or conducted after these events, while this study included non-retrospective measures of pre-event loneliness. Because of this design, the precise impact of trauma on loneliness compared to other variables could be determined (such as existing loneliness).

Social support

The results are in line with studies on the relationships between social support and PTSD-symptoms: very severe PTSD-symptoms undermine social support at later stages. The finding that victims with very low PTSD-symptom levels are less lonely than non-victims, seem to suggest that the less victims suffer from PTSD-symptoms it is easier for family and friends to provide attention and support.


The study has just been published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Reference and link: Van der Velden PG, Pijnappel B, & van der Meulen E. (2017). Potentially traumatic events have negative and positive effects on loneliness, depending on PTSD-symptoms levels. Evidence from a population-based prospective comparative study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. In: Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology (open access).

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