Socio-demographic characteristics associated with emotional and social loneliness among older adults

Irene Fierloos, Siok Swan Tan, G Williams, T Alhambra-Borras, E Koppelaar, L Bilajac, A Verma, A Markaki, F.U.S. Mattace Raso, V Vasiljev, Carmen Franse, Hein Raat

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Abstract

Background: International studies provide an overview of socio-demographic characteristics associated with loneliness among older adults, but few studies distinguished between emotional and social loneliness. This study examined socio-demographic characteristics associated with emotional and social loneliness. Methods: Data of 2251 community-dwelling older adults, included at the baseline measure of the Urban Health Centers Europe (UHCE) project, were analysed. Loneliness was measured with the 6-item De Jong-Gierveld Loneliness Scale. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to evaluate associations between age, sex, living situation, educational level, migration background, and loneliness. Results: The mean age of participants was 79.7 years (SD = 5.6 years); 60.4% women. Emotional and social loneliness were reported by 29.2 and 26.7% of the participants; 13.6% experienced emotional and social loneliness simultaneously. Older age (OR: 1.16, 95% CI: 1.06–1.28), living without a partner (2.16, 95% CI: 1.73–2.70), and having a low educational level (OR: 1.82, 95% CI: 1.21–2.73), were associated with increased emotional loneliness. Women living with a partner were more prone to emotional loneliness than men living with a partner (OR: 1.78, 95% CI: 1.31–2.40). Older age (OR: 1.11, 95% CI: 1.00–1.22) and having a low educational level (OR: 1.77, 95% CI: 1.14–2.74) were associated with increased social loneliness. Men living without a partner were more prone to social loneliness than men living with a partner (OR: 1.94, 95% CI: 1.35–2.78). Conclusions: Socio-demographic characteristics associated with emotional and social loneliness differed regarding sex and living situation. Researchers, policy makers, and healthcare professionals should be aware that emotional and social loneliness may affect older adults with different socio-demographic characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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