Encountering existential loneliness among older people: perspectives of health care professionals

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PURPOSE: Existential loneliness is part of being human that is little understood in health care, but, to provide good care to their older patients, professionals need to be able to meet their existential concerns. The aim of this study was to explore health care professionals' experiences of their encounters with older people they perceive to experience existential loneliness.

METHOD: We conducted 11 focus groups with 61 health professionals working in home care, nursing home care, palliative care, primary care, hospital care, or pre-hospital care. Our deductive-inductive analytical approach used a theoretical framework based on the work of Emmy van Deurzen in the deductive phase and an interpretative approach in the inductive phase.

RESULTS: The results show that professionals perceived existential loneliness to appear in various forms associated with barriers in their encounters, such as the older people's bodily limitations, demands and needs perceived as insatiable, personal shield of privacy, or fear and difficulty in encountering existential issues.

CONCLUSION: Encountering existential loneliness affected the professionals and their feelings in various ways, but they generally found the experience both challenging and meaningful.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Nursing (30305)


  • Existential loneliness
  • encounter
  • focus group
  • health care professionals
  • life world
  • older people
  • qualitative study


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