Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Thamara Tapia Munoz

Title: Personality traits as predictors of loneliness change over time and the role of social deprivation in the relationship between personality traits and loneliness.

Summary: There are individual differences in loneliness. While it can be an adaptative reaction to change or the need for different social/emotional connections, some experience loneliness more frequently and with higher intensity than others. Loneliness shows a stable pattern across the lifespan, so those with more intense loneliness will be at risk of chronic loneliness. Chronic loneliness is a risk factor for non-communicable diseases, mental health disorders, and early mortality. Personality traits have been related to loneliness at both phenotype and genetic levels. People with higher levels of extroversion had reported lower levels of loneliness. On the contrary, those with higher levels of neuroticism more frequently perceived greater intensity of loneliness. We have less conclusive results about the other traits. However, studies about the relationship between personality and loneliness are more regularly conducted with college students or young adults, using cross-sectional methods; and they do not consider genetic, environmental, and social factors simultaneously. Theories about loneliness have highlighted cultural and country factors and the neighbourhood social aspects as factors related to the differences in the experience of loneliness. Social determinants of health are related to personality and loneliness, yet only a few studies have analysed their relationship with relative deprivation. Using data from ELSA and the English Indices of Deprivation, my PhD aims to explore the role of relative deprivation in the relationship between personality traits and loneliness among older adults while considering genetic and environmental factors.

Biography: I studied an undergraduate degree in Psychology, a Master in Aging and Quality of Life at the University of Chile, and a Master in Epidemiology at Columbia University. My dissertation for the Ms in Epidemiology was “Income inequality and its relationship with loneliness prevalence: A cross-sectional study among older adults in the US and 16 European countries” where found that an increment in the country income inequality (GINI Coefficient) was related to higher individual loneliness prevalence. Previously, I have been involved in research studies regarding community interventions for people with severe mental illness. I've worked in three research projects concerning dementia funded by the 'National funding for scientific and technological development'– one of the most prestigious grants offered by the Chilean government. In addition, I was the PI and the Co-investigator in two projects concerning stigma towards mental illness, both funded by the Chilean Ministry of Health. At the CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health in New York, I worked as a research assistant in the NIH-funded PROMISE study (5R01MH117793-04). Nowadays, I am a part of the Millennium Institute for caregiving research (MICARE), where I am involved in the Coping with Loneliness, Isolation and Covid-19 – online survey (CLIC study).

Supervisors: Andrew Steptoe and Daisy Fancourt