doi: 10.1007/s10902-023-00661-3.

Epub 2023 May 4.


Free PMC article

Olga Stavrova et al.

J Happiness Stud.


Free PMC article


People are often advised to engage in social contact to cope with the experience of loneliness and improve well-being. But are the moments of loneliness actually more bearable when spent in other people’s company? In this research, we proposed and tested two conflicting theoretical accounts regarding the role of social contact: social contact is associated with a stronger (the amplifying account) or with a weaker (the buffering account) negative effect of loneliness on psychological well-being. Analyses of three datasets collected using ecological momentary assessments (Nindividuals = 3,035) revealed that the negative association between loneliness and well-being was stronger when participants were with others than alone, consistent with the amplifying account. Further, when participants experienced high levels of loneliness, being with others was associated with the same or with even a lower level of well-being than being alone. These findings suggest that simply spending time with others (vs. alone) is not associated with a reduced burden of loneliness and may even backfire.

Supplementary information:

The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10902-023-00661-3.


Experience sampling; Loneliness; Social contact; Social interaction quality; Social withdrawal; Well-being.

Conflict of interest statement

Conflicts of InterestThe authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Momentary loneliness, momentary social contact and momentary psychological well-being Note. Momentary loneliness and momentary social contact were centered within participants.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

Momentary loneliness (Panel A), momentary social withdrawal desire (Panel B), momentary social contact and momentary well-being, Study 3 Note. Momentary loneliness, momentary social withdrawal desire and momentary social contact were centered within participants.

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