Loneliness in the Daily Lives of Young Adults: Testing a Socio-cognitive Model

Eeske van Roekel, Phuong Ha, Ron H.J. Scholte, Rutger C.M.E. Engels, Maaike Verhagen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


A socio-cognitive model of loneliness states that lonely people are characterized by two characteristics, hypersensitivity to social threat and hyposensitivity to social reward. However, these characteristics have not yet been examined in the daily lives of young adults. Therefore, the main aim of the present study was to examine these two characteristics in young adults and whether relationship status, living situation, and type of company moderated the relationship between sensitivity to threat and reward and feelings of loneliness. The Experience Sampling Method was used, and data were collected among 219 first-year college students (M age=19.60, 91% female). Participants filled out questionnaires on their smartphone at five random time points per day, on 11 consecutive days. Multilevel analyses showed support for hypersensitivity to social threat, in that students high in loneliness were more negatively affected by negative perceptions of company. Results for hyposensitivity to social reward were in the opposite direction; students high in loneliness were more positively affected by positive perceptions of company than students low in loneliness. These relations were not moderated by relationship status or living situation. Our findings may indicate that loneliness serves as a motivational state that increases susceptibility to the environment in order to restore social relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-30
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Personality
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Emerging adults
  • Experience Sampling Method
  • Loneliness
  • Social reward
  • Social threat
  • Socio-cognitive model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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