Abstract: An Ethno-Cultural Perspective on Loneliness in Young Adulthood: A Population-Based Study in Israel (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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320P An Ethno-Cultural Perspective on Loneliness in Young Adulthood: A Population-Based Study in Israel

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Netta Achdut, PhD, Academic Faculty, Ben-Gurion University, Israel
Tehila Refaeli, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Ben Gurion University, Tel Aviv, Israel
Background and Purpose: In recent years, loneliness has become well known as a public health problem, with a rising awareness of inequality in loneliness as an important social issue. Young adults are a high-risk group for experiencing loneliness: A few studies have shown that young adults are even more at risk for loneliness than the elderly. In addition, prior research suggests ethno-cultural inequality in loneliness, with minority groups tending to feel lonelier than non-minority groups.

The study aims were to assess: (1)the prevalence of loneliness among young adults in three ethno-cultural groups in Israel: native-born Jews, former Soviet Union (FSU) immigrants, and Israeli Arabs; (2)the associations between loneliness and ethnicity, perceived poverty, physical and mental health, perceived discrimination, social capital, and online social capital; (3)the distinct sensitivity of the three ethno-cultural groups to the contributors to loneliness.

Methods: Cross-sectional representative data for individuals aged 20-34 were taken from the 2016 and 2017 Israeli social surveys (N=4,253). These surveys conducted by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics comprise a representative pooled sample of 15,000 individuals, aged 20 and over, of the permanent non-institutionalized population of Israel. Hierarchical logistic models were estimated to predict loneliness.

Results: The risk for loneliness was higher among FSU immigrants than among native-born Jews, but no difference was found between native-born Jews and Israeli Arabs. Participants who often or sometimes felt poor, were far more likely to feel lonely than those who never felt poor. In addition, better mental health and higher levels of social capital decreased the probability of loneliness. In contrast, greater online usage and experiencing discrimination were associated with increased risk for loneliness. The effect of poverty was also more pronounced among native-born Jews than among the Arabs. To further explore the distinct effect of risk factors by ethno-cultural group, we set up three sub-group models. Among others, the findings indicated that perceived discrimination increased the risk for loneliness among native-born Jews and Arabs, and online usage increased this risk only among native-born Jews. The analysis indicates that whereas ethnic differences in loneliness between the native-born Jews and the Arabs can be ascribed to differences in their demographic characteristics and the other risk factors, the risk for loneliness remained higher for immigrants after controlling for the entire set of risk factors.

Conclusions and Implications: The study reveals the complexity behind ethno-cultural inequality in loneliness among young adults. On the one hand, as we found for the Arab minority, ethno-cultural differences in loneliness can be explained by higher prevalence of risk factors among the minority group. On the other hand, as we found for the immigrants, inequality in loneliness can be ascribed to being a member of a minority group per se, all else being equal. The study’s implications are relevant for practitioners in health and social services. Interventions and preventive programs that enhance both mental health and social capital are recommended to decrease loneliness. In addition, interventions aimed at moderating online usage should be targeted to young people from the native-born Jewish group.