Loneliness in India: A systematic review of empirical studies
Introduction: Loneliness is a psychosocial problem that affects mental health and wellbeing of the individuals and communities. This systematic review synthesized the current evidence on the status and correlates of loneliness from empirical studies conducted in India.
Methods: Adopting the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines, eight major databases and additional sources were searched. Studies were evaluated using following criteria: peer-reviewed journal articles, published in English language, presenting any quantitative form of evidence on loneliness, and studies conducted in India among the Indian population. A meta-analysis of the prevalence studies and narrative synthesis of the overall status and factors associated with loneliness were conducted.
Results: Among 1290 studies, only 13 met our criteria. All the studies reported a high burden of loneliness among the participants. The pooled prevalence among 3169 participants was 41% (95% confidence interval [CI] 18% - 63%). The burden of loneliness was higher among the elderly participants (44%, 95% CI 5% - 83%) compared to younger participants (24%, 95% CI 22% - 27%). Factors associated with loneliness included aging, family structure, marital status, religious practices, group membership, educational attainment, source and level of income, psychological attributes, and comorbid physical and mental health conditions among the affected individuals.
Conclusion: This review identified and evaluated the status and severity of loneliness and its correlates, which may inform future studies examining complex psychopathological and social dynamics associated with loneliness. Lastly, the current evidence necessitates the development of multipronged interventions to address the risk factors and alleviate the burden of loneliness in India.