The impact of loneliness on economic trust: experimental evidence from 27 European countries (Elena Stepanova, Marius Alt and Astrid Hopfensitz)
Trust behavior and being trusted are influenced by a multitude of individual and situational factors. In this paper, we focus on a novel dimension, hypothesized to be related to trust behavior, that has so far received little attention in economics: loneliness. Through a large, incentivized trust experiment conducted in 27 European countries with more than 27000 respondents, we investigate: (i) the relationship between self-reported loneliness and trust and trustworthiness behavior and (ii) the impact of loneliness on receiving trust from others. In line with previous research from psychology, we observe a strong negative correlation between self-reported general trust and loneliness. This relationship is however not replicated in an incentivized trust setting: lonely individuals are even more trusting than individuals who are not lonely. Lonely individuals seem no different from non-lonely individuals regarding their trustworthiness. We finally observe that lonely individuals are treated significantly differently in the trust game: they receive significantly more trust from others and benefit from more trustworthy behavior.