The purpose of this paper is to develop and empirically validate items on social isolation. The comprehensive literature review of existing studies on the measures of social isolation, loneliness and the related construct was conducted. The paper seeks to conceptualize, validate and present items to measure social isolation.
The paper is based on theoretical and empirical investigation of the measures of social isolation, loneliness and related constructs such as social others, social loneliness and feeling of sociability. The items were generated through theoretical exploration of previous literature and later modified. The author examined the items through exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis and further checked for external criterion validity. Data collected from 128 individuals, in India, were examined to design and validate the scale.
The finding of the paper is a ten-item social isolation scale. Using structural equation modeling, we have found extraversion and well-being significantly associated with final items in the present study, confirming the external quality of the scale.
Organizations may benefit by close examination of the presence of social isolation in employees along with providing support and assistance to employees so as to reduce negative consequences of social isolation and can address the well-being of the employee.
There is a dearth of developed and validated measures of social isolation in the literature. The study reveals the conceptualization and empirical validation of measures of social isolation in the Indian context so that researchers can move forward to develop theories on social isolation.
Ranjan, S. and Yadav, R.S. (2019), "Social isolation: development and validation of measures", Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 26 No. 6, pp. 1905-1920. https://doi.org/10.1108/BIJ-11-2018-0371Download as .RIS
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Social isolation is a major factor contributing to anxiety (Mora-Gallegos and Fornaguera, 2019), psychological distress (Taylor et al., 2018) and depression (Ge et al., 2017; Mishra et al., 2018) and perseverance of poverty (Samuel et al., 2018). It has been defined as attributes of circumstances and lack of relationship (Jong-Gierveld et al., 2006). Furthermore, Poscia et al. (2018) defined social isolation as inadequacy in the severe and reliable communication of the individual with other members of the society.
Loneliness is also a similar construct to social isolation however, it is more related to the perception of an individual about the absence of the number of significant relationship with other members in the society (Poscia et al., 2018) while social isolation is a realistic deficiency in interaction with significant members coupled with the emotional aspects of loneliness (Fine and Spencer, 2009).
The extant literature suggests that loneliness has been conceptually framed and empirically tested across world (Austin, 1983; Bucquet et al., 1990; Jong-Gierveld et al., 2006; De Jong-Gierveld and Kamphuis, 1985; DiTommaso et al., 2004; DiTommaso and Spinner, 1993; Russell, 1996; Russell et al., 1980).
However, there is a lack of studies related to the development of social isolation measures and its empirical testing across the world (Zavaleta et al., 2017). Although Zavaleta et al. (2017) have recently developed indicators of internal social isolation and external social isolation in the context of European, Australian, New Zealand or North American countries, their conceptual measures have not been empirically validated.
Eckhard (2018) had suggested for the development and testing of the social isolation measures in different cultural context. Hence, in the view of the extant literature and the relative importance of social isolation it becomes relevant and important to develop and empirically validate a scale on social isolation in eastern part of the world. Therefore, in this study we will try to fill the aforementioned research void by conceptualizing and validating a measure of social isolation in Indian context. The study contributes to the literature on social isolation and also proposes managerial and research implications for future.
2. Literature review
2.1 Defining social isolation
Social isolation has been defined as the attribute of a particular circumstance and lack of relationship (Jong-Gierveld et al., 2006). It is characterized by lack of “quality and quantity of relationships in society” (Zavaleta et al., 2017). Social isolation also reflects the absence of support and connections from the society (Tomaka et al., 2006). Hence, based on the above understanding authors have defined social isolation as a state of voluntary cut-off from the society and avoidance in participating in the social interactions if any.
Loneliness is a similar construct to social isolation. Fine and Spencer (2009) emphasized loneliness as the affective and emotional side of social isolation. Furthermore, Poscia et al. (2018) also emphasized loneliness as inadequacy in the severe and reliable communication of the individual with other members of the society, which is the resultant of lack of emotional bonds with the members.
The extant literature suggests social media (Hajek and König, 2019; Primack et al., 2019), culture and values (Al-Abdullat and Dababneh, 2018; Moye, 2019; Zaabi et al., 2017), neuroticism and extraversion (Kong et al., 2014), and social support and social network (Harasemiw et al., 2018) as possible antecedents of social isolation.
Presence of social network and emotional intelligence (EI) can be one of the strong correlates of social isolation. Individuals high on EI can be less socially isolated. These individuals with high EI are also high on well-being as they tend to have more social awareness (Bozionelos and Singh, 2017; Kong et al., 2019). Studies in the past have brought the importance of EI in the literature since EI is one of the strong correlates of social isolation (Pradhan et al., 2016; Singh, 2007; Singh and Singh, 2008). Other possible predictors of social isolation can be perceived job characteristics where job can affect the well-being of an individual (Singh et al., 2016).
Based on the above understanding of the literature, we have tried to capture the external criterion validity of the social isolation scale by examining the impact of extraversion as the possible predictor of social isolation. Furthermore, extraversion is defined as a trait which is dynamic, talkative, friendly and sociable and has a strong association with social adaptability and socially active (Ranjan and Yadav, 2018).
The extant literature has also suggested certain outcomes of social isolation such as cognitive reserve (Evans et al., 2018), multidimensional poverty (Samuel et al., 2018), health behaviors (Kobayashi and Steptoe, 2018), anxiety and fear (Mora-Gallegos and Fornaguera, 2019), depression and psychological distress (Mishra et al., 2018; Taylor et al., 2018), well-being (Huyghebaert et al., 2019) and turnover intention (Samuel et al., 2018).
Given the negative consequences of social isolation such as reduced well-being so as reduced satisfaction with life and work (Chen and Feeley, 2014; Dhamija et al., 2019),we examined well-being as an outcome of social isolation to check the external criterion validity of social isolation.
In the recent literature, Singh et al. (2019) has described well-being as “person’s cognitive and affective evaluation of his or her life.” It is the presence of high amount of life satisfaction, absence of negative affect, presence of positive affect and maintaining complete physical and mental health as suggested by Singh et al. (2019). Well-being is also strongly correlated with “work satisfaction,” “organization respect for the employee,” “employer care” and “intrusion of work into private life” as suggested by Parker and Hyett (2011) and Singh et al. (2019).
2.2 Existing literature on scale development of social isolation and related constructs
To develop a comprehensive understanding on social isolation scale, authors did a systematic review of literature. In the initial phase authors identified 460 studies through electronic databases. These 460 studies included journals, magazines articles and other online articles. Later authors included 72 studies based on their presence specific to journals. In the third stage author included 30 studies on the basis of title and abstracts. In the final stage total of 14 primary studies were comprehensively reviewed as they captured conceptualization and development of measures of social isolation scale and related construct such as loneliness in different contexts (See Figures 1, 2 and 3).
Table I summarizes the existing measures on social isolation and related construct such as loneliness in the tabulated form.
Russell et al. (1978) developed “The UCLA Loneliness Scale.” The scale earlier consisted of 25 items. The scale has been empirically tested over 239 students, and Cronbach’s α was found to be 0.96. Few of the items are “I am unhappy doing so many things alone,” “I have nobody to talk to,” “I cannot tolerate being so alone,” “I lack companionship,” “I feel completely alone,” “I am unable to reach out and communicate with those around me,” “I am unhappy being so withdrawn.” Furthermore, Dan Russell et al. (1980) has examined the concurrent and discriminant validity of the earlier UCLA Loneliness Scale and developed “The Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale.” The scale was revised to overcome the response bias of the original scale.
Furthermore, Austin (1983) has developed the factorial structure of “The UCLA Loneliness Scale.” Empirical examination of 20-item scale was conducted on 493 college students. The study revealed three factors related to loneliness namely “Intimate others,” “Social others” and “Belonging and affiliation.” Some of the items measuring “Intimate others” are “I feel isolated from others,” “I feel left out,” “People are around me but not with me,” “I lack companionship” and “No one knows me well.”
Some of the items measuring “Social others” are “There are people I can talk to,” “There are people I can turn to” and “There are people I feel close to.” “Belonging and affiliation” was measured by items like “I feel part of a group of friends,” “I have a lot in common with the people around me” and “I feel in tune with the people around me.”
Furthermore, De Jong-Gierveld and Kamphuis (1985) also developed 11-item scales measuring loneliness. The scale consisted of four dimensions namely “Severe deprivation,” “Loneliness of problem situations,” “Missing companionship” and “Feelings of sociability.” The original scale had 30 items. It was tested on 1,201 participants consisting of unemployed, employed and disabled people.
The scale was later modified to 11-item scale, which consisted both positive and negative items. Few examples of the positive items are “There are plenty of people that I can depend on if I’m in trouble,” “There are enough people that I feel close to.” Some of the negative items are “I wish I had a close friend” and “I experience a sense of emptiness around me.”
In the same vein, Bucquet et al. (1990) also designed a scale which is popularly known as “Nottingham Health Profile.” The scale has four dimensions namely “Physical mobility,” “Social isolation,” “Emotional reaction” and “Energy.” The scale used five items to measure social isolation.
Furthermore, DiTommaso and Spinner (1993) designed 37-item scale known as SELSA Scale. The scale measured loneliness largely and had social loneliness as one of the component. The scale had dimensions namely “Romantic loneliness” which was measured by 12 items such as “I am an important part of the someone else’s life,” “I have a romantic partner with whom I share my most intimate thoughts and feelings.” “Family loneliness” was the second dimension of the scale and was measured through 11 items such as “I feel alone when I’m with my family,” “No one in my family cares about me” and other items. The third dimension of the scale was “Social loneliness.” It was measured by 14 items such as “I feel part of a group of friends,” “My friends understand my motives and reasoning,” “I have a lot in common with other” and other items.
Developing further, Russell (1996) developed version three of “UCLA Loneliness Scale.” It was a 20-item scale. The scale was revised to make the instrument more valid and reliable.
Cramer and Barry (1999) developed a combined version of all the major existing scales on loneliness. The scale was tested on 231 university students. Four prominent factors, which emerged from the study, are “Negative affect,” “Social loneliness,” “Emotional loneliness” and “Family loneliness.” DiTommaso et al. (2004) designed an abridged version of the original SELSA scale known as SELSA-S Scale. The revised scale consisted of 15 items.
Furthermore, Jong-Gierveld et al. (2006) modified their previous scale and developed a six-item scale on loneliness (De Jong-Gierveld and Kamphuis, 1985). The scale measured overall loneliness. The major dimensions of the scales were namely “Emotional loneliness” and “Social loneliness.” The scale was tested on 9,448 participants. Few of the items of the scale are “I experience a general sense of emptiness,” “I miss having people around,” “I often feel rejected,” “There are plenty of people I can rely on when I have problems,” “There are many people I can trust completely” and “There are enough people I feel close to.”
The extant literature suggests that the scales on loneliness and social isolation are largely conceptualized and tested in western context. According to prior literature, there are significant studies available which capture the development of the measures of loneliness. Current study extends the literature on social isolation by developing and empirically validating the measures of social isolation, which is yet to be explored explicitly. Summary of existing measures on social isolation and related constructs is provided (See Table I).
3.1 Data collection and sampling method
The study was conducted on employed and unemployed individuals ranging from age of 18 to 56 years. The population sample was drawn from India and the participants had diverse background. Online questionnaire survey method was adopted to collect data from the participants. The developed questionnaire was sent to more than 200 respondents and 128 filled questionnaire were received back. To check the external criterion validity of the proposed scale, extraversion and well-being were tested for antecedent and outcome, respectively on the participants.
Extraversion scale was adopted from the Donnellan et al. (2006). It was meant to capture the external validity of social isolation through three-item scale. It has been found as one of the strong antecedents of social isolation (Kong et al., 2014). One of the items measuring extraversion was recoded because item was earlier negatively coded. Cronbach’s α of the construct was found to be 0.519 in the present study. The value of Cronbach’s α is less than the acceptable value of 0.7 or 0.6 due to very less numbers of items in the scale of extraversion. van Griethuijsen et al. (2015) and Taber (2018) have suggested that slightly increasing the number of items would enhance the value of Cronbach’s α.
Chen and Feeley (2014) scale was used to measure well-being. It was meant to capture the external validity of social isolation. Chen and Feeley (2014) have emphasized well-being as one of the major outcomes of social isolation. Hence, it was decided to measure well-being to externally validate the items on social isolation. Cronbach’s α of the construct was found to be 0.732.
4.1 Demographic profile
The sample consisted of 34 female respondents, i.e. 26.60 percent and 94 male respondents, i.e. 73.40 percent of the total of 128 participants. Male respondents were comparatively higher as compared to female. Mean age of the participants was 25.35 years, while that of male respondents was 26.35 years and of female respondents was 22.59 years. Median age was 24.00 years with standard deviation equal to 5.417 years for entire respondents. The age of entire respondents were ranging from the individual with minimum age of 18 years to maximum age of 56 years (See complete details in Table II).
The data were analyzed using IBM SPSS AMOS version 19. Furthermore, SPSS 24 was initially used for data entry, cleaning, missing imputation of data and descriptive analysis.
4.3 Item generation
A total of 24 items were selected from the existing measures of social isolation and related constructs such as social others, social loneliness, feeling of sociability and later modified (Austin, 1983; Bucquet et al., 1990; De Jong-Gierveld and Kamphuis, 1985; DiTommaso et al., 2004; Hawthorne, 2006). In the second stage, items were given to a group of experts in the field of social isolation to check for face validity. The detailed process, which was followed in the present study, has been presented in the subsequent section (See Figure 3).
4.4 Measurement validity and reliability
4.4.1 Exploratory factor analysis (EFA)
EFA of the 24 different items was conducted. The result of the EFA with Keyser–Meyser–Olkin (KMO) and Bartlett’s test, total variance explained, factor analysis, descriptive statistics shows the excellent internal quality of the scale (See Tables III, IV, V and Table VI).
KMO value of 0.880 in the present study indicates the adequacy of the sample size (Williams et al., 1996). Also, there was no concern of common method bias as the total variance explained is found to be 42.446 percent (Podsakoff et al., 2003).Out of total 24 items, only factor loadings of ten items were significant. The factor loadings of these ten items were higher than 0.50 which indicates the robustness of the scale (Costello and Osborne, 2005; Hair et al., 1998).
4.4.2 Confirmatory factor analysis
The ten-item scale on social isolation with factor loading greater than 0.50 as the result of EFA was tested for confirmatory factor analysis (See Table VII).
4.4.3 Measurement model
The measurement model capturing the ten-item scale of social isolation indicates a good model fit as the indices were found to be in the standard range. The value of CMIN/df=2.226, p=0.000, GFI=0.891, IFI=0.914, TLI=0.887, CFI=0.912, RMSEA=0.098 and RMR=0.042 shows a very good model fit as per the standard value of indices (Hair et al., 1998) (See Figure 4).
4.4.4 Validity and reliability
The convergent validity of the resulting scale was found to be in the standard range as standardized estimates of all the items are greater than 0.50 and shows no concern (Hair et al., 1998). The Cronbach’s α of the resulting ten-item scale of social isolation is found to be 0.875, indicating very good reliability (Hair et al., 1998). The convergent validity and value of Cronbach’s α indicate a good internal quality of the scale. The composite reliability (CR) and average variance extracted (AVE) is found to be 0.878 and 0.424, respectively. The CR is found to be higher than 0.70 and greater than AVE. The final version of the scale comprises of ten items in a single factor as a result of EFA and CFA with excellent reliability and validity (See Table VIII).
4.4.5 Structural model and criterion validity
The resulting ten-items scale was subjected to check for the significant relationship with extraversion as predictor and well-being as an outcome to confirm external criterion validity. The prior literature has also establishes well-being as an outcome of social isolation (Chen and Feeley, 2014). Along the same line, extraversion has also been found as strong predictor of social isolation (Kong et al., 2014). Hence, the measurement model and subsequent structural model were analyzed using SEM on SPSS AMOS 19.
The CR values of each of the latent constructs are as follows: 0.526 for extraversion, 0.878 for social isolation and 0.769 for well-being. The value of CR of each of the construct is greater than 0.70 except for extraversion. AVE is found to be 0.285 for extraversion, 0.424 for social isolation and 0.462 for well-being, less than 0.50. The values of CRs of each of the construct are found to be greater than AVEs of the same construct. The values of CMIN/df=1.867, GFI=0.846, IFI=0.861, TLI=0.832, CFI=0.857, RMSEA=0.083 and RMR=0.053 show good fit of the model with the data (See Figure 5).
The results of structural equation modeling reveal strong support for the external criterion validity of the scale. Extraversion has a significant negative impact on social isolation (p=0.030* and β=−0.512). Further, social isolation had also a significant negative impact on well-being (p=0.041* and β=−0.174) with 95% confidence interval. The results indicate that the developed scale of social isolation has good external criterion validity (See Table IX and Figure 6).
The study attempted to enhance the understanding on social isolation in Indian context. The extant literature suggested lack of empirical validation of scales on social isolation. Hence, the authors developed and validated a scale on social isolation in Indian context. Some of the items of scales are “I feel isolated from other people” and “I don’t feel part of a group of friends.” The complete scale is presented in Table III.
The scale was tested for internal and external validity. The analysis of the results indicates good internal and external validity. EFA of the scale indicates items are having high convergence as the factor loadings of each of the item are greater than 0.50 (Hair et al., 1998). The measurement model of social isolation scale suggests goodness-of-fit.
Also the developed ten-item scale is found to be significant with other criterion variables captured in the present study. Both the criterion variables, extraversion and well-being, are found to be strongly related to the developed scale which is consistent with the prior literature (Chen and Feeley, 2014; Kong et al., 2014). Thus, the external quality of the scale is also found to be very good.
6. Theoretical contribution
In the present study, authors have contributed to the literature on social isolation by conceptualizing and empirically validating the same in eastern context. The research will help in generating the external validity of the scale on social isolation.
Although studies have examined the development of scale on loneliness and struggled to design items to measure loneliness, we consider the extension of prior research by examining ten-item scales of social isolation in Indian context.
The current research study extends the social network theory developed by Borgatti et al. (2009) and social support theory developed by Vaux (1988). According to social network theory, individuals with extraversion personality dimension are highly networked and have large social and organizational support. Along the same line, presence of social support acts as moderator which enhances the well-being of the individual and thus reduces social isolation (Borgatti et al., 2009; Chen and Feeley, 2014; Vaux, 1988).
Hence, present study signifies the importance of the presence of network and social support in reducing social isolation and in turn handling negative consequences of social isolation.
Thus, current study provides evidence that individuals with low extraversion personality are high on social isolation. Further, through empirical examination, we also found that individuals who are socially isolated are less satisfied with their life, i.e. low on well-being. Thus, present study uncovers the theoretical understanding of social isolation through the development of scale and extends the studies of social isolation by investigating the relationship with the extraversion as the predictor and well-being as one of the outcomes of social isolation.
7. Managerial implications
In the line of theory of resource-based view of human resource management, members of an organization are valuable, rare, inimitable and organized (Barney and Arikan, 2001). Since individuals add to the performance of the organization (Almatrooshi et al., 2016; Singh, 2018), their better well-being is highly needed in an organization. Hence, there is a need for employers to assist, support and nurture all human resources in an organization.
Given the negative consequences of social isolation such as reduced well-being (Chen and Feeley, 2014) which results because of social isolation, human resource professionals should take proactive steps in favor of members of an organization. The proactive steps may include employee mental health, social isolation, well-being surveys and other strategic human resource practices as suggested by N. Singh (2018) in order to identify employees who are likely to be prone to social isolation. Human resource professionals should also incorporate sensitization, counseling sessions, effective leadership (Zaabi et al., 2017) and employee engagement (Al Mehrzi and Singh, 2006) after the identification of social isolation in employees.
Informal monitoring, mentoring and interaction with these employees at regular basis urge socially isolated individual to feel less alienated and always have feeling of perceived organizational support. Social support theory emphasizes that presence of social support can highly reduce the incidents of negative consequences such as turnover intention, depression, anxiety, reduced EI, psychological distress and low well-being (Chen and Feeley, 2014; Huyghebaert et al., 2019; Mishra et al., 2018; Mora-Gallegos and Fornaguera, 2019; Taylor et al., 2018; Vaux, 1988).
8. Limitations and suggestions for future research
Although our study contributes to the existing literature, there are certain limitations, which are required to be noticed and addressed in the near future. We focused on extraversion and well-being as criterion variables to examine the external quality of the scale. The understanding of external criterion validity of the developed social isolation scale can be given an extension if future research could consider other criterion variables such as EI other possible.
Next, since the current study has been done on a respondent size of 128, we could expect the future research to examine the items on large respondents. Finally, we focused on items from the previous studies and modification of the same. The present study expects future researchers to introduce some new items to determine social isolation.
By developing and empirically testing our items, we concluded with the social isolation scale of ten items in the present study. The scale is found to be having great reliability, convergent validity and criterion validity.
There is a lack of studies related to the development of social isolation and its empirical testing across the world. In the current study we tried to fill the void by conceptualizing and empirically validating the measures of social isolation in the Indian context.
Furthermore, individuals with high extraversion personality traits are less socially isolated. At the same time, individuals with social isolation are low on well-being, that is, they are less satisfied with their life. Thus, social isolation scale developed in the current study shows no concern for both internal and external quality.
We conclude by suggesting members of an organization, or outside the organization, with social isolation should find companionship and socially interact. Human resource managers should provide also social support and take proactive steps so as to reduce social isolation in the member of an organization.
Summary of existing measures of the social isolation and related constructs
|1||Russell et al. (1978)||20 items – The UCLA Loneliness Scale||Loneliness|
|2||Dan Russell et al. (1980)||20 items – The Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale||Loneliness|
|3||Austin (1983)||21-item scale||Intimate others, social others and belonging and affiliation|
|4.||De Jong-Gierveld and Kamphuis (1985)||Rasch-Type Loneliness – 11-items scales||Severe deprivation, loneliness of problem situations, missing companionship and feelings of sociability|
|5||Bucquet et al. (1990)||38-item scale||Physical mobility, social isolation, emotional reaction and Energy|
|6||DiTommaso and Spinner (1993)||37-item scale known as SELSA Scale||Romantic loneliness, family loneliness and social loneliness|
|7||Russell (1996)||20 items-version three of UCLA Loneliness Scale||Loneliness|
|8||DiTommaso et al. (2004)||15-item scale – SELSA-S||Romantic loneliness, family loneliness and social loneliness|
|9||Jong-Gierveld et al. (2006)||Six-item scale||Emotional loneliness and social loneliness|
|KMO and Bartlett’s test|
|Kaiser–Meyer–Olkin measure of sampling adequacy||0.880|
|Bartlett’s test of sphericity||Approx. χ2||514.837|
|Total variance explained|
|Initial eigenvalues||Extraction sums of squared loadings|
|Factor||Total||Percent of variance||Cumulative percent||Total||Percent of variance||Cumulative percent|
Note: Extraction method: maximum likelihood
Standardized regression weights
|S23 ← Social_Isolation||0.649|
|S22 ← Social_Isolation||0.823|
|S21 ← Social_Isolation||0.742|
|S20 ← Social_Isolation||0.539|
|S16 ← Social_Isolation||0.777|
|S15 ← Social_Isolation||0.597|
|S12 ← Social_Isolation||0.609|
|S10 ← Social_Isolation||0.548|
|S8 ← Social_Isolation||0.635|
|S6 ← Social_Isolation||0.520|
Final 10 items social isolation scale
|1(S6)||I don’t feel part of a group of friends|
|2(S8)||I don’t have any friends to whom I can share my views, but I hope I did|
|3(S10)||I do not have any friends who understand me, but I hope I did|
|4(S12)||I feel isolated from other people|
|5(S15)||When with other people, I felt separate from them|
|6(S16)||I feel alone and friendless|
|7(S20)||I feel I am a burden to people|
|8(S21)||I feel lonely|
|9(S22)||I feel there is nobody I am close to|
|10(S23)||I am finding it hard to make contact with people|
The result of hypothesis testing for external criterion validity
|Social_Isolation ← Extraversion||−0.347||−0.512||0.236||−2.164||0.030*|
|Well_Being ← Social_Isolation||−0.226||−0.174||0.085||−2.044||0.041*|
Note: *Significant at 0.05
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The authors thank Dr Vijay Laxmi Singh for her valuable suggestions in this research work.