Genetic and environmental contributions to loneliness in adults: the Netherlands Twin Register study

D.I. Boomsma, G. Willemsen, C.V. Dolan, L.C. Hawkley, J.T. Cacioppo

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Heritability estimates based on two small studies in children indicate that the genetic contribution to individual differences in loneliness is approximately 50%. Heritability estimates of complex traits such as loneliness may change across the lifespan, however, as the frequency, duration, and range of exposure to environmental influences accrues, or as the expression of genetic factors changes. We examined data on loneliness from 8,387 young adult and adult Dutch twins who had participated in longitudinal survey studies. A measure of loneliness was developed based on factor analyses of items of the YASR (Achenbach, (1990) The Young Adult Self Report, University of Vermont, Department of Psychiatry, Burlington, VT). Variation in loneliness was analyzed with genetic structural equation models. The estimate of genetic contributions to variation in loneliness in adults was 48%, which is similar to the heritability estimates found previously in children. There was no evidence for sex or age differences in genetic architecture. Sex differences in prevalence were significant, but we did not see an association with age or birth cohort. All resemblance between twin relatives was explained by shared genes, without any suggestion of a contribution of shared environmental factors. ©2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)745-752
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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