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Lost and unfulfilled relationships behind emotional loneliness in old age



Using a qualitative approach, this article examines how the experiences of emotional loneliness are embedded in the everyday lives and relationships of older adults. Ten in-depth interviews were conducted in 2010 with older people who reported feeling lonely, often or all the time, during a cohort study in southern Finland. The research reveals the multifaceted nature of loneliness and its causes. Behind emotional loneliness, we identified lost and unfulfilled relationships, involving the loss or lack of a partner, the absence of a meaningful friendship, complex parenthood and troubling childhood experiences. Most of the interviewees have faced loneliness that only began in old age, but for some, loneliness has been present for nearly a lifetime.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Elisa Tiilikainen, Department of Social Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, PO Box 1627, 70211 Kuopio, Finland E-mail:


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