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Negative old-age life events and well-being in later life: the moderating and mediating role of loneliness

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2021

Lise Switsers*
Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Brussels, Belgium Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), Brussels, Belgium
Eva Dierckx
Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Brussels, Belgium Psychiatric Hospital Alexianen Zorggroep Tienen, Tienen, Belgium
Joan Domènech-Abella
Department of Sociology, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental (CIBERSAM), Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain
Liesbeth De Donder
Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Brussels, Belgium
Sarah Dury
Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Brussels, Belgium
Correspondence should be addressed to: Lise Switsers, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Department of Educational Sciences (EDWE), Pleinlaan 2 - 1050Brussels, Belgium, Phone +32 2 629 26 74. Email:



Although older adults often experience negative life events or loss experiences, they rarely experience large decreases in their quality of life or well-being. Emotionally satisfying relationships in older adults may serve as a protective factor that reduces the impact of negative events in decreasing well-being. The availability of these close social contacts is essential, and their potential for alleviating feelings of loneliness after negative events could have an important role in promoting well-being. The aim of this study was to test the hypothetical moderation and mediation effects of social and emotional loneliness on the occurrence of negative old-age life events and well-being in later life.


This was a cross-sectional survey conducted as part of the Detection, Support and Care for older people – Prevention and Empowerment research project (2015–2018).


Participants were community-dwelling older adults in Flanders (Belgium).


The sample composed of 770 participants aged 60 years and over.


Participant demographics, social and emotional loneliness, and subjective well-being were measured. Moderation and mediation analyses were performed using the regression-based approach as conducted by Hayes and Rockwood (2017).


Results indicated that a low degree of (social) loneliness is a protective, moderating factor and (emotional) loneliness is a mediating factor on the effects of negative life events on well-being in later life.


Findings highlight the importance of emotionally and socially satisfying social contacts in order to maintain positive subjective well-being in later life when negative life events may occur.

Original Research Article
© International Psychogeriatric Association 2021

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