The Loneliness of the Odd One Out: How Deviations From Social Norms Can Help Explain Loneliness Across Cultures

Luzia Heu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Loneliness is an important health risk, which is why it is important to understand what can cause persistent or severe loneliness. Previous research has identified numerous personal or relational risk factors for loneliness. Cultural predictors, however, have been considered less. The new framework of norm deviations and loneliness (NoDeL) proposes that social norms, which are defining features of culture, can help explain loneliness within and across cultural contexts. Specifically, people who deviate from social norms are suggested to be at an increased risk for feeling lonely because they are more likely to experience alienation, inauthenticity, lower self-worth, social rejection, relationship dissatisfaction, and/or unfulfilled relational needs. Given that social norms vary by social, geographical, and temporal context, they can furthermore be considered cultural moderators between individual-level risk factors and loneliness: Personal or relational characteristics, such as shyness or being single, may increase the risk for loneliness particularly if they do not fit social norms in a specific environment. Integrating previous quantitative and qualitative findings, I hence offer a framework (NoDeL) to predict loneliness and cultural differences in risk factors for it. Thus, the NoDeL framework may help prepare culture-sensitive interventions against loneliness.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Early online date11 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Oct 2023


  • culture
  • loneliness
  • norm deviations
  • social norms


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