Loneliness NZ

Who are the lonely? A typology of loneliness in New Zealand


Hannah Hawkins-Elder, Taciano Milfont, Matthew Hammond, and Chris Sibley

Author affiliations

Victoria University of Wellington, University of Auckland


Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychology, vol. 52(4), pp. 357-364, April 2018


Conducted a Latent Profile Analysis (LPA) on 18,264 participants from the fifth wave of the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS) to identify the number of distinct loneliness profiles in the population. Secondary analysis determined the wellbeing and personality characteristics of participants within each profile.


Four loneliness profiles were identified, which they labelled: 'high-loneliness', 'low-loneliness', 'appreciated outsiders' (received acceptance from others but felt like social outsiders) and 'superficially connected' (felt like social insiders but didn't receive acceptance from others).


"The ‘appreciated outsiders’ emerged significantly better off on all markers of wellbeing than the ‘superficially connected’. This would suggest that possessing close, meaningful relationships may be a more decisive factor in maintaining wellbeing than a sense of social inclusion."

Loneliness profiles

 Loneliness was measured using the responses to three items that were originally designed to measure ‘felt belongingness’.  The items were: ‘I feel like an outsider’, ‘I know that people in my life value and accept me’, and ‘I know that people around me share my values and beliefs’. Using LPA, a four profile solution was found to be the most parsimonious and best-fitting model of the data  (see figure).  Most people fall into the profiles of ‘low-loneliness’ (57.9%) or ‘appreciated outsiders’ (29.1%)
Matrix of four distinct New Zealand loneliness profiles

Loneliness profile characteristics

Secondary analyses determined the wellbeing and personality characteristics of each loneliness profile.  The profiles were found to be ordered from ‘high-loneliness’ to ‘low-loneliness’ with the ‘superficially connected’ profile closer to ‘high-loneliness’ and the ‘appreciated outsiders’ profile closer to ‘low-loneliness’ (see figure). As shown in the figure, the ‘high-loneliness’ profile had low wellbeing (i.e. low self-rated health, 

low self-esteem, low life satisfaction, low perceived social support, and high psychological distress), low extraversion, and high neuroticism. In contrast, the ‘low-loneliness’ profile had the opposite, with the other profiles ordered in between. While the loneliness profiles are ordered in the figure, they do not provide a loneliness spectrum due to the sharp discontinuity between the ‘superficially connected’ and ‘appreciated outsiders’ profiles.

Diagram showing New Zealand loneliness profile characteristics

The NZAVS was not designed to evaluate loneliness and, as such, the measures do not capture the ‘attachment’ aspect of loneliness.  Furthermore, the fifth wave of the NZAVS was not totally representative of the New Zealand population, with an over-representation of NZ Europeans (85.5%) and females (62.8%).