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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Psychiatry 1/2018

The validity of proxy-based data on loneliness in suicide research: a case-control psychological autopsy study in rural China

BMC Psychiatry > Ausgabe 1/2018
Lu Niu, Cunxian Jia, Zhenyu Ma, Guojun Wang, Zhenjun Yu, Liang Zhou



There is a lack of evidence for the role of loneliness on suicide using psychological autopsy method, and the validity of proxy informants’ reports on loneliness is not well established. This study aimed to investigate the validity of proxy respondent reports on loneliness, and the reliability and validity of the University of California Los Angeles Loneliness Scale-6 (ULS-6) as used in psychological autopsy method with rural elderly people in China.


Two hundred forty-two suicide cases and 242 normal community controls were selected, and the psychological autopsy method was utilized to collect information. Data from proxy respondents of the living controls were compared with data reported by the targets (gold standards).


Subject-proxy concordance for ULS-6 was fair (ICC = 0.447) in the living controls. The suicide cases were more likely to have a higher score of ULS-6 than the living controls. Additionally, our data supported that ULS-6 had adequate psychometric properties in both suicide and control groups: factor analyses yielded one-factor component solution; Cronbach’s alpha (both > 0.90) demonstrated excellent internal consistency; the Spearman correlation analysis indicated that the ULS-6 score was positively correlated with depression; and negatively correlated with QOL and social support.


Results support proxy-based data on loneliness in research of suicide in older adults in rural China, and the ULS-6 is a psychometrically sound instrument for measuring loneliness in psychological autopsy studies.
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