Social isolation puts elderly at health risk

April 13, 2018 by Jared Wadley, University of Michigan
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

One in five elderly adults is socially isolated from family or friends, increasing their risks for poor mental and physical health, as well as higher rates of mortality, according to a University of Michigan study.

U-M researchers investigated several factors impacting social isolation from family and friends within a national sample of more than 1,300 older African-Americans, black Caribbeans and whites. Study participants were aged 55 and older during the data collection from 2001 to 2003.

Overall, most elderly were connected to both family and friends (77 percent), while 11 percent were isolated from friends only and 7 percent were isolated from family members only. Of concern, however, were the 5 percent of elderly who were socially isolated from both family and friends, which may place them at risk for physical and , the researchers say.

Men were more likely than women to be socially isolated. Women's lifelong investments in family and networks, often through their social roles as caregivers to others, suggest that they may be less likely to experience social isolation in . African-American, black Caribbean and white reported similar levels of social isolation from family and friends.

Another key finding suggested that older adults who live with family members may still report social isolation from friends, suggesting that these and friends have distinctive and complementary roles in terms of social isolation.

"In essence, our findings indicated that living arrangements themselves—alone or with others—were not indicative of social contact or engagement," said lead author Linda Chatters, the Paula Allen-Meares Collegiate Professor of Social Work and professor of public health.

Older adults with mobility impairments such as moving about in one's home, standing for 30 minutes or walking a long distance, were more likely to report being isolated from friends. In contrast, elderly who experienced impairments in self-care such as bathing and dressing were less likely to indicate being isolated from friends.

One explanation for these findings could be that mobility impairments lead to because they limit the ability to socialize with friends outside the home, the researchers say. In contrast, because self-care impairments reflect a higher level of physical frailty, friends may be more likely to make home visits to the elderly.

Explore further: Older adults with small social networks less likely to get cataract surgery

More information: Linda Chatters et al. Correlates of Objective Social Isolation from Family and Friends among Older Adults, Healthcare (2018). DOI: 10.3390/healthcare6010024

Related Stories

Older adults with small social networks less likely to get cataract surgery

March 9, 2018
Close family relationships and a strong social network may help older adults see the world better—literally.

Isolation, loneliness may raise death risk for elderly

March 25, 2013
(HealthDay)—Elderly people who are socially isolated and lonely may be at greater risk of early death, British researchers report.

Gerontologists tackle social isolation, increasingly a public health concern

March 12, 2018
Social connectivity and meaningful social engagement must be promoted as integral components of healthy aging, according to a new collection of articles in the latest issue of Public Policy & Aging Report (PP&AR) from The ...

Festive season accentuates isolation of dying older people

December 20, 2017
Older people lack support from their communities towards the end of their lives, with many becoming progressively more socially isolated before their death. Both older people and their families and whānau require support ...

Face-to-face socializing more powerful than phone calls, emails in guarding against depression

October 5, 2015
In a slight knock on digital and telephone communications, a new study points to the unsurpassed mental health benefits of regular face-to-face social interactions among older adults. Study participants who regularly met ...

Recommended for you

Study shows that people most affected by alcohol also most impacted by sleep deprivation

July 17, 2018
A team of researchers from the German Aerospace Center and Forschungszentrum Jülich has found that people who are most susceptible to alcohol intoxication are also most susceptible to cognitive problems due to sleep deprivation. ...

As we get parched, cognition can easily sputter, dehydration study says

July 17, 2018
Anyone lost in a desert hallucinating mirages knows that extreme dehydration discombobulates the mind. But just two hours of vigorous yard work in the summer sun without drinking fluids could be enough to blunt concentration, ...

Jury still out on probiotics

July 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Probiotics have become a trendy dietary supplement, with more and more people popping bacteria-laden capsules to try to improve their gut health.

Self-control and obesity: Gender matters in children

July 16, 2018
A toddler's self-regulation—the ability to change behavior in different social situations—may predict whether he or she will be obese come kindergarten, but the connection appears to be much different for girls than for ...

1 in 9 U.S. adults over 45 reports memory problems

July 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—If you're middle-aged and you think you're losing your memory, you're not alone, a new U.S. government report shows.

Antioxidant benefits of sleep

July 12, 2018
Understanding sleep has become increasingly important in modern society, where chronic loss of sleep has become rampant and pervasive. As evidence mounts for a correlation between lack of sleep and negative health effects, ...

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.