Author: Iris Hulshof
Loneliness is an incredibly subjective feeling, surfacing whenever there is a mismatch between the relationships an individual wants and the ones they have (Asher and Paquette 2003).
So how can we measure something so context-dependent? In order to better understand the loneliness rates among its citizens, the municipality of The Hague uses the Jong Gierveld Loneliness scale. How lonely are you according to this test?
The Definition of Loneliness
Loneliness is formally defined as “the cognitive awareness of a deficiency in one’s social and personal relationships, and the ensuing affective reactions of sadness, emptiness or longing” (Asher and Paquette 2003). To put it more simply, loneliness is the subjective percpetion that your relationships are not what you want them to be, regardless of how many or which type you have.
But if loneliness is so personal, unpalpable and has no typical shape or size, how can we measure it?
The Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale
This question led to the creation of two different approaches towards measuring loneliness: The first is the UCLA scale developed by Russell, Peplau and Ferguson in 1978 (Schmidt and Sermat 1983). This scale consists of 20 questions directly asking about one’s feelings of loneliness and belonging (Schmidt and Sermat 1983).
The second approach – used by the municipality of The Hague – was developed by de Jong Gierveld and van Tilburg (GGD 2016). This scale is composed of 11 questions asking about different aspects of loneliness (Jong Gierveld and Tilburg 2008). It can be split up into two sub-scales: first, an emotional one which asks about the quality of one’s relationships. The second one is focused on the social aspect of loneliness, asking about the quantity of one’s relationships. The higher the emotional and social scores, the more lonely the individual.
|I always have someone around with whom I can share my day-to-day problems||Social|
|I miss a real friend||Emotional|
|I experience emptiness around me||Emotional||x|
|I have enough people to fall back on in case of trouble||Social||x|
|I miss joy around me||Emotional|
|I deem my circle of acquaintances too small||Emotional|
|I have many people who I can fully trust||Social||x|
|I have enough people with whom I feel closely connected||Social||x|
|I miss people around me||Emotional||x|
|I often feel abandoned||Emotional||x|
|I can always go to my friends if I feel the need to do so||Social|
It is important to note that while the scale is filled in by individuals, its results are only scientifically valid for large-scale measures. Nevertheless, you will find an adaptation of this scale and its scoring at the end of this post, which allows you to gain a little insight into your own loneliness score.
How do you use this Scale?
This scale was developed for large-scale measures of loneliness across a population. There are two different ways in which the test can be administered: The full or the shortened version. The suitability of each version depends on the context in which it is performed (Jong Gierveld and Tilburg 2008).
If the loneliness survey is performed in a written way for example – meaning that people read the questions themselves and then write down the answer – the full scale is used. In this case, not only are there more questions, there are more possible answers: yes!, yes, kind of, no, no! (Jong Gierveld and Tilburg 2008).
If the loneliness survey is performed verbally however – for example through a phone call – the survey is shortened and answer options are limited to yes, kind of and no (Jong Gierveld and Tilburg 2008).
Below, you can find the loneliness scale, but scored as if it were a loneliness test. Though the test is not intended to rank a single individual’s loneliness, you can nevertheless use it to get a better idea of your loneliness score:
|I always have someone around with whom I can share my day-to-day problems||0||1||2|
|I miss a real friend||2||1||0|
|I experience emptiness around me||2||1||0|
|I have enough people to fall back on in case of trouble||0||1||2|
|I miss joy around me||2||1||0|
|I deem my circle of acquaintances too small||2||1||0|
|I have many people who I can fully trust||0||1||2|
|I have enough people with whom I feel closely connected||0||1||2|
|I miss people around me||2||1||0|
|I often feel abandoned||2||1||0|
|I can always go to my friends if I feel the need to do so||0||1||2|
Simply circle the answer applicable to you and add up the scores to find your results!
You are not very lonely. You are content with your social relations as they are, both in quality and quantity.
You feel lonely sometimes. Maybe you can try to reach out to others a bit more, or ask them to reach out to you more. Alternatively, you can talk about the quality of your relationships with others.
You often feel lonely. It would be a good idea to reach out to people around you, or contact one of the social protection providers listed on this website (under providers).
You are very lonely. Please reach out to people around you, or contact one of the social protection providers listed on this website (under “Providers”).
Asher, S. R. and J. A. Paquette (2003). “Loneliness and Peer Relations in Childhood.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 12(3): 75–78.
GGD (2016). “Eenzaamheid Den Haag.” GGD Haaglanden Gezondheidsmonitor. At https://gezondheidsmonitor.ggdhaaglanden.nl/gemeenten/den-haag/themas/sociale-gezondheid/eenzaamheid/.
Jong Gierveld, J. and T. Tilburg (2008). “De ingekorte schaal voor algemene, emotionele en sociale eenzaamheid.“ Tijdschrift voor Gerontologie en Geriatrie 39(1): 4–15.
Schmidt, N. and V. Sermat (1983). “Measuring loneliness in different relationships.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 44(5): 1038–1047.