Social and physical neighbourhood characteristics and loneliness among older adults: Results from the MINDMAP project

Erik Timmermans, Irina Motoc, J Mark Noordzij, Marielle A Beenackers, Rita Wissa, Aliou Sarr, Asli Gurer, Guillaume Fabre, Milagros Ruiz, Dany Doiron, Joost Oude Groeniger, Dorly Deeg, Frank J Van Lenthe, Martijn Huisman

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BACKGROUND: Loneliness is associated with several adverse mental and physical health outcomes in older adults. Previous studies have shown that a variety of individual-level and perceived area-level characteristics are associated with loneliness. This study examined the associations of objectively measured social and physical neighbourhood characteristics with loneliness.

METHODS: We used cross-sectional data from 1959 older adults (63-98 years) who participated in the Longitudinal Ageing Study Amsterdam (LASA; wave 2011/12) and the Health and Living Conditions of the Population of Eindhoven and Surroundings study (GLOBE; wave 2014) in the Netherlands. Study-specific loneliness scores were harmonised across both cohort studies and divided into tertiles denoting low, medium and high levels of loneliness. Objectively measured neighbourhood characteristics, including area-level percentages of low educated residents, social security beneficiaries and unoccupied dwellings, average income, crime levels and land use mix, were linked to individual-level data. Multinomial logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the associations of interest.

RESULTS: There was no statistical evidence for an association of the included neighbourhood characteristics with loneliness. Although not statistically significant, the observed associations suggested that participants living in neighbourhoods with more heterogeneous land use mix were less likely to have a medium and high level of loneliness than those living in more homogeneous neighbourhoods in terms of land use mix (ORmedium=0.54, 95% CI=0.18-1.67; ORhigh=0.67, 95% CI=0.21-2.11).

CONCLUSION: The results indicate that the included objectively measured social and physical neighbourhood characteristics are not associated with loneliness in old age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-469
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding The MINDMAP project is funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 Programme under grant agreement number 667661. The Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam is funded largely by a grant from the Netherlands Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, Directorate of Long-Term Care (grant number: N/A). The GLOBE study is funded by a grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (grant number: 200500005). MABs work was funded by a Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) VENI grant on ‘DenCityHealth: How to keep growing urban populations healthy?’ (grant number: 09150161810158).

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