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Individual Experiences as Cultural – a Cross-cultural Study on Loneliness Among the Elderly

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 November 2008

Marja Jylhä
Department of Public Health, University of Tampere, P.O. Box 607, SF–33101 Tampere, Finland.
Jukka Jokela
Department of Public Health, University of Tampere, P.O. Box 607, SF–33101 Tampere, Finland.


Data from six European regions participating in the Eleven Country Study on Health Care of the Elderly suggested that feelings of loneliness were more prevalent in areas where living alone was rarest and where community bonds were strongest. Individual variables describing life-situation did not explain the differences. The article examines loneliness as an historical and cultural phenomenon. It is argued that loneliness reflects, through complex mediations, the mutual relationship between the individual and the community and the extent to which the ideology of individualism prevails in society. In attempts to understand the differences between the study areas, the article looks more closely into the role of the community and the family in two selected areas: the industrial town Tampere in Finland and rural Greece.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1990

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