UBC Faculty Research and Publications

The Missing Measure of Loneliness: A Case for Including Neededness in Loneliness Scales Gordy, Ariel; Luo, Helen Han Wei; Sidline, Margo; Brownlee, Kimberley, 1978-


Prominent tools used to measure loneliness such as the UCLA Scale and DJGS include no items related to being needed, i.e., neededness. More recent scales such as the DLS and SELSA do include items on neededness, but only within their romantic loneliness subscales. This paper proposes that new iterations of loneliness scales should include in all subscales two items on neededness: (a) whether a person feels important to someone else and (b) whether that person has good ways to serve others’ well-being. The paper surveys cognate studies that do not rely on loneliness scales but establish a link between neededness and feelings of social connection. It then highlights ways in which neededness items would improve the ability of loneliness scales to specify the risk profile, to delineate variations in the emotional tone and quality of loneliness, and to propose suitable interventions. The paper outlines a theoretical argument—drawing on moral philosophy—that prosociality and being needed are non-contingent, morally urgent human needs, postulating that the protective benefits of neededness vary according to at least four factors: the significance, persistence, non-instrumentality, and non-fungibility of the ways in which a person is needed. Finally, the paper considers implications for the design of appropriate remedies for loneliness.

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