Introducing a dual continuum model of belonging and loneliness

Michelle H. Lim, Kelly-Ann Allen, Michael J. Furlong, Heather Craig, Doug C. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Scholars and social commentators have noted the escalating rates of loneliness among global societies for more than a decade. The need to quarantine, self-isolate, and physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected the way we interacted with each other–exacerbating feelings of loneliness. A sense of belonging and loneliness are sometimes used interchangeably and the research on their shared and distinct aspects is limited. One shared demographic vulnerability in the belonging and loneliness research is the focus on adolescents and young adults. This paper brings together research on the association between the two constructs as a way to explore the utility of belonging-focused perspectives and approaches for addressing loneliness at multiple socio-ecological levels. A proposed conceptual Dual Continuum Model of Belonging and Loneliness presents a multifaceted categorisation of the conjoint loneliness and belonging relationship. This paper highlights the role of belonging in addressing loneliness, which has critical implications for ongoing research and intervention. KEY POINTS What is already known about this topic: (1) Loneliness is considered to arise from a universal human need to belong. (2) Loneliness and belonging are important constructs for social wellbeing. (3) A sense of belonging and loneliness are terms that are often used interchangeably. What this topic adds: (1) The loneliness and belonging research have similarities but are also distinct. (2) Loneliness and belonging could be conceptualised within a dual continuum model. (3) The proposed dual model demonstrates that there is much more to understand about these constructs—theoretically, conceptually and empirically.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-86
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Belonging
  • loneliness
  • model

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