Background: Social connections are a basic need of all humans. Loneliness is a perceived lack of both quantity and quality of social relationships. Prior research demonstrates that loneliness increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and poor health outcomes. Although African American (AA) women are at greater risk than non-Hispanic White (NHW) women for CVD, the influence of social disadvantages on loneliness in AA women at risk for CVD have not been examined.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare protective and risk factors posited to predict loneliness in AA women and NHW women at risk for CVD.
Methods: A cross sectional sample of post-menopausal women (50 AA and 49 NHW) with at least two risk factors for CVD completed standardized measures of loneliness, depressive symptoms, financial stress, subjective social status, social support provisions, and resilience.
Results: Compared to NHW, AA women reported greater loneliness (t=-2.09, p=.039), financial stress (t=-2.92, p=.004), and lower subjective social status (t=2.68, p=.009). In addition, AA women described less attachment (t=2.34, p=.028) and reliable alliance social support provisions (t=3.27, p=.002) than NHW women. Predictors of loneliness differed between AA and NHW women in that higher levels of depressive symptoms and financial stress and lower levels of resilience, subjective social status, and the social provision of guidance predicted loneliness in AA women in the overall model (r2=.91, p=.000). In NHW women, only depressive symptoms and social integration uniquely predicted loneliness (r2=.79, p=.000).
Conclusions: AA women experienced higher levels of loneliness than NHW women. Although depressive symptoms were a strong predictor of loneliness in both groups, high levels of financial stress and low levels of social status, resilience, and social guidance were unique contributors of loneliness in AA women. Findings from this study may assist researchers in developing and testing tailored interventions to address the effects of social disadvantages on loneliness in vulnerable populations.