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  • Evaluating the Performance of a Short Loneliness Scale Among College Students
  • Molly R. Matthews-Ewald (bio) and Keith J. Zullig (bio)

Loneliness has been defined as instances of discontinuity between the ideal interpersonal relationships and one's perceived current interpersonal relationships (Heinrich & Gullone, 2006), often occurring in college students. Transitioning away from the comforts of home to the independent nature of the college environment can be stressful for students (Stewart-Brown et al., 2000) and thus is and has been a major focus of student affairs personnel. Daily stressors may help to explain why college students are more likely to engage in risky behaviors as ineffective coping mechanisms, sometimes leading to feelings anxiety and depression, both of which have been found to be related to perceptions of loneliness (Russell, Peplau, & Cutrona, 1980).

Perceived loneliness in college student populations has been found to be related to myriad mental health constructs (Inderbitzen-Pisaruk, Clark, & Solano, 1992), life dissatisfaction (Diener & Seligman, 2002), and suicide and suicidal ideation (Stravynski & Boyer, 2001), as well as poor physical health (Segrin & Passalacqua, 2010). With these strong correlates, it is pertinent to identify those who have high perceptions of loneliness to improve overall health. Thus, much attention has been given to its measurement.

Currently Utilized Loneliness Scale

The 20-item Revised UCLA Loneliness (R-UCLA) Scale created by Russell and colleagues (1980) is widely used and considered the "gold standard" in assessing perceived loneliness. A shortcoming of this scale is its relative length. For this reason, a short loneliness scale (Three-Item Loneliness Scale [TILS]) was developed and compared against the R-UCLA to assess its performance in a sample of older adults (Hughes, Waite, Hawkley, & Cacioppo, 2004). Given the importance of assessing loneliness among college students, a limitation of the TILS is that it has not been systematically tested among college students.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the performance of the TILS among randomly selected college students. It was expected that the TILS would (a) show acceptable internal consistency and reliability, (b) demonstrate acceptable evidence for construct, known groups, and criterion-related validity, and (c) would be unrelated to demographic variables (gender, race, age, socioeconomic status).

Methods

Sample

During February 2007, 1,300 undergraduate students aged 18 years or older were randomly selected from the referent university's e-mail database to participate in the web-delivered health survey in a Midwestern state. Equal numbers of students were randomly selected from each class level using the uniform distribution number generator function in SAS (Cary, NC). This function assigns each [End Page 105] student a random number, resulting in a representative sample of university students (see Zullig, Huebner, Patton, & Murray [2009] for a review).

Instrumentation

TILS.

Identical to Hughes and associates (2004), the TILS item were: "How often do you feel that you lack companionship?" (relational connectedness); "How often do you feel left out?" (collective connectedness); and "How often do you feel isolated from others?" (general isolation). The response options for each item were hardly ever, some of the time, or often. In previous research among adults, the TILS has shown acceptable reliability (α = 0.72) and was highly correlated with the R-UCLA (r = 0.82; p < .001; Hughes et al., 2004). The TILS in this study demonstrated acceptable reliability (α = 0.81) as well.

Brief Multidimensional Students' Life Satisfaction Scale.

Recent research concludes that high-quality social relationships bolster satisfaction with life (Diener & Seligman, 2002). Hence, the Brief Multidimensional Students' Life Satisfaction Scale (BMSLSS) was selected for this study as criterion measure because it has been demonstrated to be a valid and reliable measure of life satisfaction among college students (see Zullig, Huebner, Gilman, Patton, & Murray, 2005; Zullig et al., 2009). The BMSLSS in this study demonstrated acceptable reliability (α = 0.78).

The Centers for Disease Control's Health-Related Quality of Life Scale.

Lonely individuals display decreased health status (Hawthorne, 2008). Therefore, the Health-Related Quality of Life Scale (HRQOLS) was chosen for this study as measure of health status. The HRQOLS contains four questions and has been shown to display good construct validity with adults (see Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1994; Hennessy, Moriarty, Zack, Scherr, & Brackbill, 1994 for a review) and college...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-3382
Print ISSN
0897-5264
Pages
pp. 105-109
Launched on MUSE
2013-02-02
Open Access
No
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