[Does social integration really protect against loneliness? Gender determinants in a rural population in Senegal]

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Sante publique (Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy, France)








Loneliness; Social networks; Solidarity society; Mental health; Sub-Saharan Africa


INTRODUCTION: This study aims to test a measure of loneliness and to document its determinants among rural men and women in Senegal. METHODS: Data from the Niakhar Social Networks and Health Project were used. The analysis sample was composed of 1261 residents aged 16 years and older. Analyses were stratified by gender. Associations between loneliness and its determinants (socio-demographic characteristics and level of social integration) were examined with multivariate logistic regressions. RESULTS: Loneliness affects almost one in three people. Its prevalence is more significant for women. Multivariate analyses indicate that for both men and women, older age intensifies loneliness and recent migration experience protects against loneliness. Other factors act differently according to gender. Widowhood or divorce for men, and residential isolation for women, worsen the experience of loneliness. Social integration protects men against loneliness, but this relationship is not found for women. Finally, the effect of the level of social integration on loneliness varies with age. CONCLUSIONS: This study, which documents a phenomenon which is often neglected by misconceptions about social solidarities in these societies, suggests that loneliness is not linked to the same issues for men and women. For men, being socially integrated and being in a union are protective, whereas for women, poor social integration does not appear to be a clear source of loneliness, unlike residential isolation.


Global Health