Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jeffrey E. Stokes

Second Advisor

Kathrin Boerner

Third Advisor

Suzanne Leveille


Loneliness and social isolation have become increasing concerns for public health, particularly among older adults. Loneliness is the subjective discrepancy between one’s desired and perceived social relationships, in both quantity and quality, whereas social isolation is the objective absence of social relationships or interactions. This research explored the relationships between health status and loneliness and health status and social engagement using physical activity as a mediator. Data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) Waves 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018 (N = 6,416) were used to examine loneliness and social engagement. To understand differences in the same respondents over time, the 2012 and 2016 data waves were pooled (N = 3,145) and the 2014 and 2018 data waves were pooled (N = 3,271). The 11-item UCLA Loneliness Scale measures loneliness and confirmatory factor analysis was conducted to construct three social engagement scales: civic and social engagement, family and child interactions, and friend interactions. Multiple imputation was used to account for missing data. Lagged dependent variable analysis, structural equation modelling, and interaction terms were used to test the variables of interest. Higher self-rated health at baseline was associated with decreased loneliness at follow-up (b = -0.02, p


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