Locked and lonely? A longitudinal assessment of loneliness before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in Norway
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionScandinavian Journal of Public Health. 2021, 1-8. 10.1177/1403494821993711
Aims: There are concerns that lockdown measures taken during the current COVID-19 pandemic lead to a rise in loneliness, especially in vulnerable groups. We explore trends in loneliness before and during the pandemic and differences across population subgroups. Methods: Data were collected via online questionnaires in June 2020 and four to eight months prior in two Norwegian counties (N=10,740; 54% women; age 19–92 years). Baseline data come from the Norwegian Counties Public Health Survey (participation rate 46%, of which 59% took part in a COVID-19 follow-up study). Results: Overall loneliness was stable or falling during the lockdown. However, some subgroups, single individuals and older women, reported slightly increased loneliness during lockdown. Interestingly, individuals with low social support and high levels of psychological distress and loneliness before the pandemic experienced decreasing loneliness during the pandemic. Conclusions: Although data limitations preclude strong conclusions, our findings suggest that, overall, Norwegians seem to have managed the lockdown without alarming increases in loneliness. It is important to provide support and to continue investigating the psychological impact of the pandemic over time and across regions differentially affected by the pandemic.