Stronger feelings of loneliness among Moroccan and Turkish older adults in the Netherlands: In search for an explanation

Theo G. van Tilburg*, T. Fokkema

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The prevalence of loneliness among Turkish–Dutch and Moroccan–Dutch older adults is higher than among Dutch older adults of non-migrant origin. Three explanations may account for this difference: (1) differential item functioning might result in scores that vary in intensity and in meaning across categories; (2) the position of migrants is much more vulnerable than that of non-migrants; (3) the lack of protective factors has more severe consequences for older migrants. The Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam interviewed 176 persons born in Morocco and 235 born in Turkey, aged 55–66 and living in urban areas. They are compared with a matched sample of 292 Dutch persons. The psychometric properties of the loneliness scale are satisfying, although there is some differential item functioning. Older migrants have more frequent social contacts but are at a disadvantage in other domains. Taking into account differences in social participation, satisfaction with income, mastery and depressive symptoms, the difference between older migrants’ and non-migrants’ loneliness is reduced by more than half. Protective factors are equally important for older migrants and non-migrants. Exceptions are marriage (less protective for Moroccans), frequent contact with children/children-in-law (mostly for Turks), a higher educational level (protects Moroccans and Turks) and better physical functioning (less for Turks). Being an older migrant and belonging to a minority might further contribute to feelings of loneliness. Interventions can be directed at stimulating social contact, but also at aspects like enhancing the appreciation of their social status and avoiding negative interpretations of a situation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-322
JournalEuropean Journal of Ageing
Issue number3
Early online date22 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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