Loneliness NZ

Integrative review of older adult loneliness and social isolation in Aotearoa/New Zealand


Valerie Wright-St Clair, Stephen Neville, Vanessa Forsyth, Lindsey White, and Sara Napier

Author affiliations

Auckland University of Technology


Australasian Journal on Ageing, vol. 36(2), pp. 114-123, June 2017


Conducted the first systematic integrative review of empirical studies of loneliness for older adults in Aotearoa/New Zealand; to identify and synthesise what is known in the field.


A broad literature search identified 21 potential articles. After these articles were scrutinised against the inclusion criteria, one qualitative and eight quantitative research articles were selected and subjected to independent appraisal and synthesis.


Whilst many reviewed articles measured loneliness, only one article studied interventions. Therefore, going forward research is needed "to effectively predict and prevent, and to identify and test evidence-based interventions and community services directed at ameliorating older adults' loneliness."

Publications selected for the integrative review

Table of New Zealand publications selected for the Wright-St Clair et al (2017) integrative review

Synthetic findings of integrative review

General findings

  • Loneliness is negatively associated with physical health, mental health and quality of life;
  • Loneliness is significantly, positively related to depression;
  • Levels of loneliness and depression were significantly correlated with suicidal ideation for New Zealand males aged 65+;
  • The research findings were consistent with international evidence and suggest overcoming loneliness may positively influence older adults' physical and mental health.

Specific findings

  • For recent Korean migrants, loss of social networks, new social arrangements, separation from family, and poor English were barriers to social inclusion;
  • For older Māori, family and locally integrated social networks are culturally and personally important; and any perceived deficits in these areas may have a more significant association with loneliness;
  • For older adults who are visually impaired, they are significantly more likely to report greater loneliness and social isolation.

The review did not include grey literature or theoretical literature, and may have missed manuscript in the process of publication. There was some difficulty in choosing a quality appraisal tool that allowed for comparative appraisal of published quantitative and qualitative research. The chosen appraisal tool only had four appraisal criteria, which limited its sensitivity.