This study examined the longitudinal association between loneliness and self-rated health (SRH), and whether there were race differences between non-Hispanic Black and White adults in these associations.
1,407 participants were drawn Social Relations Study, a regional study of social relations across the lifespan with three waves of data collection in 1992, 2005, and 2015 (Wave 1, W1: Mage = 50.28, 28% Black, 59% female). Cross-lagged structural equation models examined the association between loneliness and SRH over three waves. We adjusted for baseline age, gender, social network size, and depressive symptoms.
There were no race differences in loneliness at any wave. Loneliness W1 was associated with Loneliness W2; Loneliness W2 was associated with Loneliness W3. We had similar findings for associations among SRH. However, only one of the cross-lagged paths was significant. Worse SRH W2 was associated with more Loneliness W3. The only path that varied across race was in the association between SRH W2 and Loneliness W3, and this path was significant only in Whites.
Findings indicate that loneliness at later midlife may be detrimental to later life health, particularly for Whites. As a valid indicator of health, SRH can be used in the body of research on health correlates of loneliness as adults age. Use of the current sample of Black and White adults provides nuanced understanding in the ways in which racially diverse adults experience loneliness and should be useful in refining and developing culturally competent interventions for older adults.