Overcoming existential loneliness: a cross-cultural study

B. P.M. Chung, J. Olofsson, F. K.Y. Wong, M. Rämgård

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Moving into a long-term care facility (LTCF) can reduce the ability for older adults to engage in meaningful roles and activities and the size of their social network. These changes and losses can lead them to experience existential loneliness (EL) - the intolerable emptiness and lack of meaningful existence resulted from the losses they have experienced. While EL has often been understood as a universal human experience, it has primarily been studied in people from Western cultures; little is known about how EL may be experienced by and manifested in people from Eastern cultures. Hence, this qualitative study aimed to describe the experience and coping of EL in Hong Kong Chinese and Swedish older adults living in LTCFs. Methods: A qualitative study using Thorne's (2004) interpretive description was conducted. Thirteen Chinese and 9 Swedes living in LTCFs in Hong Kong, China and Malmo, Sweden, respectively were interviewed about their experience of EL in two series of semi-structured interviews. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Results: The core theme of "overcoming EL"described the participants' experience of EL, which came about through the combined process of "Feeling EL"and "Self-Regulating". Both Chinese and Swedish participants had similar experience with EL. Realizing that they did not want to living with EL anymore, they coped by reframing their experience and identifying new meaning in their life. Conclusions: The study findings suggested that early and clear counselling support that help older adults to define new meaning in life may help them cope. In addition, more opportunities should be available at the LTCFs to promote quality relationships, enable older adults to reflect on their lives with pride, and support their ability to do the things they enjoy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number347
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2020


  • Coping
  • Cross-culture
  • Existential loneliness
  • Meaning of life
  • Older adults
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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