Report reveals key concerns of UK's aging society

October 15, 2012

One in six people in England aged over 50 are socially isolated. They have few socially orientated hobbies, little civic or cultural engagement with society, and may have very limited social networks. This was a key finding from the most recent report of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), a comprehensive study that aims to understand the economic, social, psychological and health concerns of an ageing society. The multidisciplinary ELSA research team showed that the least wealthy over-fifties suffer the most social isolation, with the wealthier over 50's half as likely to become socially isolated compared to the least wealthy.

The ELSA report went on to suggest that focussing efforts on less wealthy, less healthy older people and on improving access to public and private transport for the over-50's is likely to have the greatest impact in alleviating .

The ELSA project is an extensive research study that follows the lives of more than 10,000 English people throughout their older age and which reveals the complex between personal finances, social detachment and overall health and wellbeing. Previous reports from the project have shown how is closely linked with long life and healthy ageing. The current findings come from the fifth report of ELSA, which is led by researchers at UCL (University College London) and which is carried out in partnership with researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the University of Manchester and NatCen Social Research.

One of ELSA's goals was to determine whether measuring psychological well being at a younger age could predict an individual's risk of later developing and suffering an earlier death. Subjects were first visited in 2002/03 (wave one) and again most recently in 2010/11 (wave five).

Those who were recorded as having a greater enjoyment of life in wave one were more likely to still be alive 9 to 10 years later than were other participants. The difference between those who enjoyed life the most and those who enjoyed life the least was marked, with nearly three times more people dying in the lower than greater enjoyment group. In addition, ELSA found that measures of psychological well-being that were taken in 2004/05 (wave two) could be used to predict which previously unaffected individuals would go on to suffer disability, reduced walking speed, impaired self-rated health, and to develop coronary heart disease by the time they were visited again in 2010/11.

These remarkable findings became even more astonishing when it became clear that the link between psychological well being and long term health and survival was independent of other factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, wealth, education and baseline health.

OTHER KEY FINDINGS OF THE FIFTH REPORT

Pensions and wealth:

  • There is evidence that a significant number of individuals over recent years have been retiring gradually, rather than abruptly ceasing work. Almost half of men and a third of women aged 60-64 years who are in receipt of private pension income are still in work; and these individuals on average work fewer hours than those who have yet to start drawing their private pensions.
  • Among those who have retired over the last decade, average post-retirement family net income fell to 72% of average pre-retirement income. Those in the top quartile of pre-retirement income experience the biggest post-retirement percentage decrease (down 40%).
Social detachment:
  • Social detachment is more common among individuals who never married or have been separated/divorced or widowed than members of couples.
  • Men, those living alone and those living in rural areas are less likely to remain in regular contact with friends and family.
  • Mobility problems are associated with a withdrawal from leisure activities and cultural engagement, as is losing access to transport.
  • Women are more likely to become detached from leisure activities than men, but less likely to become detached from social networks; while widowed individuals are less likely to withdraw from leisure activities, cultural engagement and, in particular, social networks than those in a couple.
KEY FACTS
  • The project is led by a team of researchers at UCL, NatCen Social Research, the University of Manchester, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The study is coordinated by Professor Andrew Steptoe, British Heart Foundation Professor of Psychology and director of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at UCL.
  • ELSA began in 2002 and visits volunteer participants every two years. This is the fifth biennial report.

Explore further: Study explores possible causes of well-being in old age

Related Stories

Study explores possible causes of well-being in old age

June 21, 2011
(PhysOrg.com) -- Investigators from the UK and China are to analyse the most in-depth surveys on aging ever carried out in both countries to explore what key factors affect the well-being of the elderly. They will also compare ...

Planning is key to a healthy and happy retirement, studies find

June 21, 2011
Retirement is often viewed as a time to relax, travel, participate in leisurely activities and spend time with family. However, for many older adults, chronic health problems and poor planning often hinder the enjoyment of ...

Healthy living into old age can add up to 6 years to your life

August 30, 2012
Living a healthy lifestyle into old age can add five years to women's lives and six years to men's, finds a study from Sweden published in the British Medical Journal today.

Recommended for you

Hormone therapy in the menopause transition did not increase stroke risk

November 24, 2017
Postmenopausal hormone therapy is not associated with increased risk of stroke, provided that it is started early, according to a report from Karolinska Institutet published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

When traveling on public transport, you may want to cover your ears

November 22, 2017
The noise levels commuters are exposed to while using public transport or while biking, could induce hearing loss if experienced repeatedly and over long periods of time, according to a study published in the open access ...

Different types of alcohol elicit different emotional responses

November 22, 2017
Different types of alcohol elicit different emotional responses, but spirits are most frequently associated with feelings of aggression, suggests research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Air pollution linked to poorer quality sperm

November 22, 2017
Air pollution, particularly levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), is associated with poorer quality sperm, suggests research published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Sunrise and sunset guide daily activities of city-dwellers

November 21, 2017
Despite artificial lightning and social conventions, the dynamics of daylight still influence the daily activities of people living in modern, urban environments, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

Older men need more protein to maintain muscles

November 21, 2017
The amount of protein recommended by international guidelines is not sufficient to maintain muscle size and strength in older men, according to a new study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.