Influence of social environment on loneliness in older adults: Moderation by polymorphism in CRHR1


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Objective: Both adverse social environments and genetic factors contribute to loneliness in old age. Mixed findings between older adults' social relations with their children and their levels of loneliness suggested that a gene × social environment interaction may be operating. We examine whether the effects of infrequent contact with children and low levels of perceived social support from children on loneliness in older adults are moderated by two candidate single nucleotide polymorphisms (i.e., rs1876831 and rs242938) in the corticotrophin releasing hormone receptor 1 (CRHR1) gene. Design: This was a longitudinal observational study. Setting and Participants: A population-based sub-sample of 1,374 community-dwelling older adults aged 65 years and older was examined from both the 2003–2004 and 2006–2007 English Longitudinal Study of Aging assessments. Measurements: Our main outcome measure is loneliness, which was assessed by four items extracted from the ULCA loneliness scale. Results: Compared with older adults carrying the CT/TT genotypes, individuals homozygous for the C allele of rs1876831 reported higher levels of loneliness in the context of infrequent social contact with children and lower levels of perceived social support from children. No gene × social environment interactions were found for loneliness between rs242938 and an adverse social environment related to children. Conclusions: This study provides the first evidence in humans that the CRHR1 gene interacts with exposure to a negative social environment to predict loneliness in older adults. Copyright © 2014 American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)510-518
JournalThe American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number5
Early online dateApr 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2014



Chou, K.-L., Cacioppo, J. T., Kumari, M., & Song, Y. Q. (2014). Influence of social environment on loneliness in older adults: Moderation by polymorphism in CRHR1. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 22(5), 510-518.


  • Gene–environment interaction
  • Loneliness
  • Social environment
  • ELSA
  • CRHR1