Skip to main content Accessibility help

Living arrangements and loneliness of South Asian immigrant seniors in Edmonton, Canada



This paper examines the relationships between self-reported loneliness and living arrangements. A structured questionnaire with some open-ended questions was administered face-to-face in English, Hindi or Punjabi to a sample of 161 elderly South Asian immigrants 60 or more years of age living in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in 2003. The majority of respondents said that they never felt lonely. More than one in three (37.3%) respondents indicated that they felt lonely occasionally, frequently or all of the time. Those living alone were significantly more likely to report feeling lonely at least occasionally than were those living with others, especially those living with their spouse in an extended family. The fact that South Asian immigrant seniors typically lived with others, often in an extended family with or without their spouse, and rarely lived alone protected them to some extent from loneliness. However, our findings showed that among those living with others, it was the amount of waking time spent alone at home and the quality of family relationships rather than living arrangement per se that significantly predicted self-reported loneliness. Nevertheless, living in a larger household was associated with spending less time alone. We discuss plausible influences of culture on expectations regarding family and social relationships and on the meaning of being alone, as well as practical implications for addressing loneliness in a multi-cultural society.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Cheuk Fan Ng, Psychology, Centre for Social Sciences, Athabasca University, Athabasca, AB T9S 3A3, Canada E-mail:


Hide All
Andersson, L. 1998. Loneliness research and interventions: a review of the literature. Aging and Mental Health, 2, 4, 264–74.
Bagley, C. R. 1993. Mental health and social adjustment of elderly Chinese immigrants in Canada. Canada's Mental Health, 41, 3, 610.
Basavarajappa, K. G. 1998. Living arrangements and residential overcrowding among older immigrants in Canada. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, 7, 4, 409–32.
Bess, I. 1999. Widows living alone. Canadian Social Trends, Summer, 25.
Bofill, S. 2004. Aging and loneliness in Catalonia: the social dimension of food behavior. Ageing International, 29, 4, 385–98.
Boyd, M. 1991. Immigration and living arrangements: elderly women in Canada. International Migration Review, 25, 1, 427.
Brislin, R. W. 1986. The wording and translation of research instruments. In Lonnor, W. S. and Berry, J. W. (eds), Field Methods in Cross-cultural Research. Sage, Beverly Hills, California, 137–64.
Cacioppo, J. T. and Patrick, W. 2008. Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. W. W. Norton, New York.
Cameron, L. 2000. The residency decision of elderly Indonesians: a nested logit analysis. Demography, 37, 1, 1727.
Choudhry, U. K. 2001. Uprooting and resettlement experiences of South Asian immigrant women. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 23, 4, 376–93.
Chow, H. P. H. 2010. Growing old in Canada: physical and psychological well-being among elderly Chinese immigrants. Ethnicity and Health, 15, 1, 6172.
Dahan-Oliel, N., Mazer, B., Gelinas, I., Dobbs, B. and Lefebvre, H. 2010. Transportation use in community-dwelling older adults: association with participation and leisure activities. Canadian Journal on Aging, 29, 4, 491502.
de Jong Gierveld, J. and Havens, B. 2004. Cross-national comparisons of social isolation and loneliness: introduction and overview. Canadian Journal on Aging, 23, 2, 109–13.
de Jong Gierveld, J. and van Tilburg, T. 1999. Living arrangements of older adults in the Netherlands and Italy: coresidence values and behaviour and their consequences for loneliness. Journal of Cross-cultural Gerontology, 14, 1, 124.
de Jong Gierveld, J., van Tilburg, T. and Dykstra, P. 2006. Loneliness and social isolation. In Vangelista, A. and Perlman, D. (eds), Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 485500.
Dean, A., Kolody, B., Wood, P. and Matt, G. E. 1992. The influence of living alone on depression in elderly persons. Journal of Aging and Health, 4, 1, 318.
DeMaris, A. 2003. Logistic regression. In Schinka, J. A. and Velicar, W. F. (eds), Handbook of Psychology: Research Methods in Psychology. Volume 2, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey, 509–32.
Diwan, S. 2008. Limited English proficiency, social network characteristics, and depressive symptoms among older immigrants. Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 63B, 3, S184–91.
Fokkema, T., de Jong Gierveld, J. and Dykstra, P. A. 2012. Cross-national differences in older adult loneliness. Journal of Psychology, 146, 1/2, 201–28.
Gee, E. M. 2000. Living arrangements and quality of life among Chinese Canadian elders. Social Indicators Research, 51, 3, 309–29.
George, D. and Mallery, P. 2005. SPSS for Windows Step by Step. Fifth edition, Pearson, Boston, Massachusetts.
Glasgow, N. and Blakely, R. M. 2000. Older non-metropolitan residents’ evaluations of their transportation arrangements. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 19, 1, 95116.
Glick, J. E. and Van Hook, J. 2002. Parents’ coresidence with adult children: can immigration explain racial and ethnic variation? Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 1, 240–53.
Greenfield, E. A. and Russell, D. 2011. Identifying living arrangements that heighten risk for loneliness in later life: evidence from the U.S. National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 30, 4, 524–34.
Grewal, S., Bottorff, J. L. and Hilton, B. A. 2005. The influence of family on immigrant South Asian women's health. Journal of Family Nursing, 11, 3, 242–63.
Gurak, D. T. and Kritz, M. M. 2010. Elderly Asian and Hispanic foreign- and native-born living arrangements: accounting for differences. Research on Aging, 32, 5, 567–94.
Hawkley, L. C., Thisted, R. A., Masi, C. M. and Cacioppo, J. T. 2010. Loneliness predicts increased blood pressure: 5-year cross-lagged analyses in middle-aged and older adults. Psychology and Aging, 25, 1, 132–41.
Ip, D., Lui, C. W. and Chui, W. H. 2007. Veiled entrapment: a study of social isolation of older Chinese migrants in Brisbane, Queensland. Ageing & Society, 27, 5, 719–38.
Johnson, D. P. and Mullins, L. C. 1987. Growing old and lonely in different societies: toward a comparative perspective. Journal of Cross-cultural Gerontology, 2, 3, 257–75.
Jylha, M. and Jokela, J. 1990. Individual experiences as cultural: a cross-cultural study on loneliness among the elderly. Ageing & Society, 10, 3, 295315.
Kim, O. 1999. Mediation effect of social support between ethnic attachment and loneliness in older Korean immigrants. Research in Nursing and Health, 22, 2, 169–75.
Knipscheer, K., Dykstra, P., de Jong Gierveld, J. and van Tilburg, T. 1995. Living arrangements and social networks as interlocking mediating structures. In Knipscheer, C. P. M., de Jong Gierveld, J., van Tilburg, T. G. and Dykstra, P. A. (eds), Living Arrangements and Social Networks of Older Adults. VU University Press, Amsterdam, 114.
Lai, D. W. L. 2004. Impact of culture on depressive symptoms of elderly Chinese immigrants. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 49, 12, 820–7.
Lai, D. W. L. and Surood, S. 2008. Predictors of depression in aging South Asian Canadians. Journal of Cross-cultural Gerontology, 23, 1, 5775.
Lai, D. W. L. and Surood, S. 2010. Types and factor structure of barriers to utilization of health services among aging South Asians in Calgary, Canada. Canadian Journal on Aging, 29, 2, 249–58.
Luanaigh, C. O. and Lawlor, B. A. 2008. Loneliness and the health of older people. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 23, 12, 1213–21.
Moss, S. Z., Moss, M. S., Kilbride, J. E. and Rubinstein, R. L. 2007. Frail men's perspectives on food and eating. Journal of Aging Studies, 21, 4, 314–24.
Perlman, D. 2004. European and Canadian studies of loneliness among seniors. Canadian Journal on Aging, 23, 2, 181–8.
Pettigrew, S. and Roberts, M. 2008. Addressing loneliness in later life. Aging and Mental Health, 12, 3, 302–9.
Phua, V. C., Kaufman, G. and Park, K. S. 2001. Strategic adjustments of elderly Asian Americans: living arrangements and headship. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 32, 2, 263–81.
Pinquart, M. and Sörensen, S. 2001. Influences on loneliness in older adults: a meta-analysis. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 23, 4, 245–66.
Rokach, A. 2012. Loneliness updated: an introduction. Journal of Psychology, 146, 1/2, 16.
Rokach, A. and Bauer, N. 2004. Age, culture, and loneliness among Czechs and Canadians. Current Psychology, 23, 1, 323.
Rokach, A. and Neto, F. 2005. Age, culture, and the antecedents of loneliness. Social Behavior and Personality, 33, 5, 477–94.
Rokach, A. and Sharma, M. 1996. The loneliness experience in a cultural context. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 11, 4, 827–39.
Russell, D. 2009. Living arrangements, social integration, and loneliness in later life: the case of physical disability. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 50, December, 460–75.
Russell, D., Peplau, L. A. and Ferguson, M. L. 1978. Developing a measure of loneliness. Journal of Personality Assessment, 42, 3, 290–4.
Sanders, S., Polgar, J. M., Klosek, M. and Crilly, R. 2005. Homebound older individuals living in the community: a pilot study. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics, 23, 2/3, 145–60.
Shiovitz-Ezra, S. and Leitsch, S. A. 2010. The role of social relationships in predicting loneliness: the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project. Social Work Research, 34, 3, 157–67.
Statistics Canada 2003 a. Census of Population (Provinces, Census Divisions, Municipalities) Marital Status, Common-law Status, Families, Dwellings and Households, 2001 Census, 20% Sample Data. Available online at [Accessed 25 July 2011].
Statistics Canada 2003 b. 2001 Census: Data Products: Topic-based Tabulations (97F0009XCB2001040, 95F0363XCB2001004, 97F0009XCB2001002, 97F0007XCB2001001, and 97F0009XCB2001041). Available online at [Accessed 25 July 2011].
Statistics Canada 2007 a. Portrait of the Canadian Population in 2006, by Age and Sex, 2006 Census. Catalogue No. 97-551-XIE, Minister of Industry, Ottawa. Available online at [Accessed 11 February 2009].
Statistics Canada 2007 b. Immigration in Canada: A Portrait of the Foreign-born Population, 2006 Census. Catalogue No. 97-557-XIE, Minister of Industry, Ottawa. Available online at [Accessed 26 November 2008].
Statistics Canada 2007 c. A Portrait of Seniors in Canada, 2006. Catalogue No. 89-519-XIE, Minister of Industry, Ottawa. Available online at [Accessed 26 November 2008].
Statistics Canada 2008 a. Immigrant Status and Place of Birth (38), Sex (3) and Age Groups (10) for the Population of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2006 Census – 20% Sample Data. Catalogue No. 97-557-X2006013, Minister of Industry, Ottawa. Available online at [Accessed 24 December 2011].
Statistics Canada 2008 b. Place of Birth (33), Period of Immigration (9), Sex (3) and Age Groups (10) for the Immigration Population of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2006 Census – 20% Sample Data. Catalogue No. 97-557-XCB2006019, Minister of Industry, Ottawa. Available online at [Accessed 24 December 2011].
Statistics Canada 2008 c. The Daily, April 2, 2008. 2006 Census: Ethnic Origin, Visible Minorities, Place of Work and Mode of Transportation. Available online at http://www.statcan.gc.ce/daily/ [Accessed 14 June 2010].
Sudha, S., Suchindran, C., Mutran, E. J., Rajan, S. I. and Sarma, P. S. 2006. Marital status, family ties, and self-rated health among elders in South Asian. Journal of Cross-cultural Gerontology, 21, 3/4, 103–20.
Sundstrom, G., Fransson, E., Malmberg, B. and Davey, A. 2009. Loneliness among older Europeans. European Journal of Ageing, 6, 4, 267–75.
Tam, S. and Neysmith, S. 2006. Disrespect and isolation: elder abuse in Chinese communities. Canadian Journal on Aging, 25, 2, 141–51.
Theeke, L. A. 2009. Predictors of loneliness in U.S. adults over age sixty-five. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 23, 5, 387–96.
Thomas, K. and Wister, A. 1984. Living arrangements of older women: the ethnic dimensions. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 46, 2, 301–11.
Tivis, R. S., Laitala, V., Routasalo, P. E. and Pitkaia, K. H. 2011. Suffering from loneliness indicates significant mortality risk of older people. Journal of Aging Research, 5 Pages, doi: 10:4061/2011/534781.
Tran, K., Kaddatz, J. and Allard, P. 2005. South Asians in Canada: unity through diversity. Canadian Social Trends, Autumn, 20–5.
Treas, J. and Mazumdar, S. 2002. Older people in America's immigrant families: dilemmas of dependence, integration, and isolation. Journal of Aging Studies, 16, 3, 243–58.
Turcotte, M. 2012. Profile of seniors’ transportation habits. Canadian Social Trends, 93, summer, 316.
van Tilburg, T., Havens, B. and de Jong Gierveld, J. 2004. Loneliness among older adults in the Netherlands, Italy, and Canada: a multifaceted comparison. Canadian Journal on Aging, 23, 2, 169–80.
Victor, C. R., Burholt, V. and Martin, W. 2012. Loneliness and ethnic minority elders in Great Britain: an exploratory study. Journal of Cross-cultural Gerontology, 27, 1, 6578.
Victor, C., Scambler, S. and Bond, J. 2009. The Social World of Older People: Understanding Loneliness and Social Isolation in Later Life. Open University Press, Maidenhead, UK.
Victor, C., Scambler, S., Bond, J. and Bowling, A. 2000. Being alone in later life: loneliness, social isolation, and living alone. Reviews in Clinical Gerontology, 10, 4, 407–17.
Victor, C. R. and Yang, K. 2012. The prevalence of loneliness among adults: a case study of the United Kingdom. Journal of Psychology, 146, 1/2, 85105.
Weiss, R. S. 1973. Loneliness: The Experience of Emotional and Social Isolation. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Yeh, S. J. and Lo, S. K. 2004. Living alone, social support, and feeling lonely among the elderly. Social Behavior and Personality, 32, 2, 129–38.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed