ABSTRACT: The focus in this paper is on the social domain of quality of life, and more particularly loneliness. The empirical literature on older adult loneliness is reviewed, thereby challenging three often-held assumptions that figure prominently in public debates on loneliness. The first assumption that loneliness is a problem specifically for older people finds only partial support. Loneliness is common only among the very old. The second assumption is that people in individualistic societies are most lonely. Contrary to this belief, findings show that older adults in northern European countries tend to be less lonely than those in the more familialistic southern European countries. The scarce data on Central and Eastern Europe suggest a high prevalence of older adult loneliness in those countries. The third assumption that loneliness has increased over the past decades finds no support. Loneliness levels have decreased, albeit slightly. The review notes the persistence of ageist attitudes, and underscores the importance of considering people's frame of reference and normative orientation in analyses of loneliness.
Project description:Background: This study aimed to assess the association between loneliness and Health-Related Quality of Life (HR-QoL) among community-dwelling older citizens in five European countries. We characterize loneliness broadly from an emotional and social perspective. Methods: This cross-sectional study measured loneliness with the 6-item De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale and HR-QoL with the 12-Item Short-Form Health Survey. The association between loneliness and HR-QoL was examined using multivariable linear regression models. Results: Data of 2169 citizens of at least 70 years of age and living independently (mean age = 79.6 ± 5.6; 61% females) were analyzed. Among the participants, 1007 (46%) were lonely; 627 (29%) were emotionally and 575 (27%) socially lonely. Participants who were lonely experienced a lower HR-QoL than participants who were not lonely (p ? 0.001). Emotional loneliness [std-?: -1.39; 95%-CI: -1.88 to -0.91] and social loneliness [-0.95; -1.44 to -0.45] were both associated with a lower physical HR-QoL. Emotional loneliness [-3.73; -4.16 to -3.31] and social loneliness [-1.84; -2.27 to -1.41] were also both associated with a lower mental HR-QoL. Conclusions: We found a negative association between loneliness and HR-QoL, especially between emotional loneliness and mental HR-QoL. This finding indicates that older citizens who miss an intimate or intense emotional relationship and interventions targeting mental HR-QoL deserve more attention in policy and practice than in the past.
Project description:More than two decades of research has consistently indicated that feelings of loneliness among older people are more common in southern Europe than in its northern parts, with the lowest rates in Denmark and Sweden. Our analyses based on analysis of 2004-2006 data from 8,787 individuals aged 65 years or older in the SHARE project replicate, update, and extend these findings. We found, similar to previous studies, that the prevalence of feelings of loneliness was more common in the Mediterranean countries than in Northern Europe. Living together with a spouse/partner was consistently associated with the lower prevalence of loneliness across countries. The combination of living alone and having bad health was associated with 10 times higher odds of feeling lonely as compared with living together with someone and having good health. With regard to gender and health, we found signs of differences between countries in how these factors were related to loneliness. Our results indicate the importance of both contextual features and cultural expectations in interpreting reported loneliness, that is, loneliness across Europe has both nomothetic and idiographic features.
Project description:We examine the extent to which coping options endorsed by older adults help alleviate loneliness, and experiences with loneliness influence the coping options. Two ways of coping are distinguished: problem-focused, i.e., improving one's relationships, and emotion-focused, i.e., lowering one's expectations about relationships. Loneliness is assessed using three observations over 6 years among 1,033 61- to 99-year-old respondents in the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. Combining the first two observations yielded four loneliness types: not lonely at T0 and T1, recently lonely, persistently lonely, and recovered from loneliness. Between the second and third observations, respondents were asked to evaluate which coping options lonely peers described in various vignettes had. From this, individual coping scores were calculated. The option to improve relationships did not affect the likelihood of one's own loneliness, and the option to lower expectations even increased it. Compared to non-lonely respondents, recently lonely ones endorsed both ways of coping equally frequently, persistently lonely ones endorsed improving relationships less frequently and lowering expectations more frequently and recovered respondents endorsed improving relationships equally frequently and lowering expectations more frequently. We conclude that considering various ways of coping does not help alleviate loneliness and that persistently lonely and recovered respondents are at risk of a circular process with loneliness experiences resulting in considering lowering expectations more frequently, which results in a greater likelihood of loneliness, thus contributing to sustaining or re-establishing loneliness.
Project description:Highlights • What is the primary question addressed by this study? This paper explores the use of natural language processing techniques and machine learning models to predict loneliness in older community-dwelling adults.• What is the main finding of this study? There are structural differences in how older men and women talk about loneliness that can be detected using natural language processing techniques. Text features can be used to predict loneliness with reasonable validity.• What is the meaning of the finding? NLP and machine learning approaches provide a novel way to analyze text data to identify loneliness, while accounting for key sociodemographic factors like sex and age. Objective The growing pandemic of loneliness has great relevance to aging populations, though assessments are limited by self-report approaches. This paper explores the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to evaluate interviews on loneliness, notably, employing natural language processing (NLP) to quantify sentiment and features that indicate loneliness in transcribed speech text of older adults. Design Participants completed semi-structured qualitative interviews regarding the experience of loneliness and a quantitative self-report scale (University of California Los Angeles or UCLA Loneliness scale) to assess loneliness. Lonely and non-lonely participants (based on qualitative and quantitative assessments) were compared. Setting Independent living sector of a senior housing community in San Diego County. Participants Eighty English-speaking older adults with age range 66–94 (mean 83 years). Measurements Interviews were audiotaped and manually transcribed. Transcripts were examined using NLP approaches to quantify sentiment and expressed emotions. Results Lonely individuals (by qualitative assessments) had longer responses with greater expression of sadness to direct questions about loneliness. Women were more likely to endorse feeling lonely during the qualitative interview. Men used more fearful and joyful words in their responses. Using linguistic features, machine learning models could predict qualitative loneliness with 94% precision (sensitivity?=?0.90, specificity?=?1.00) and quantitative loneliness with 76% precision (sensitivity?=?0.57, specificity?=?0.89). Conclusions AI (e.g., NLP and machine learning approaches) can provide unique insights into how linguistic features of transcribed speech data may reflect loneliness. Eventually linguistic features could be used to assess loneliness of individuals, despite limitations of commercially developed natural language understanding programs.
Project description:A substantial portion of the older adult population suffers from frequent feelings of loneliness, but a large proportion remains relatively unscathed by loneliness. To date, research examining both protective and risk factors for loneliness has not included data from the United States. The present study used the first two waves of data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project to examine sociodemographic, structural, and functional factors thought to be associated with loneliness in older adults. Functional limitations and low family support were associated with an increase in loneliness frequency (as were more strained friendships) and with transitioning from nonlonely to lonely status. Better self-rated health, higher levels of socializing frequency, and lower family strain were associated with transitioning from lonely to nonlonely status. Interventions that target these factors may be effective in preventing and reducing loneliness and its effects on health and well-being in older adults.
Project description:Evidence shows that ageism negatively impacts the health of older adults. However, estimates of its prevalence are lacking. This study aimed to estimate the global prevalence of ageism towards older adults and to explore possible explanatory factors. Data were included from 57 countries that took part in Wave 6 of the World Values Survey. Multilevel Latent Class Analysis was performed to identify distinct classes of individuals and countries. Individuals were classified as having high, moderate or low ageist attitudes; and countries as being highly, moderately or minimally ageist, by aggregating individual responses. Individual-level (age, sex, education and wealth) and contextual-level factors (healthy life expectancy, population health status and proportion of the population aged over 60 years) were examined as potential explanatory factors in multinomial logistic regression. From the 83,034 participants included, 44%, 32% and 24% were classified as having low, moderate and high ageist attitudes, respectively. From the 57 countries, 34 were classified as moderately or highly ageist. The likelihood of an individual or a country being ageist was significantly reduced by increases in healthy life expectancy and the proportion of older people within a country. Certain personal characteristics-younger age, being male and having lower education-were significantly associated with an increased probability of an individual having high ageist attitudes. At least one in every two people included in this study had moderate or high ageist attitudes. Despite the issue's magnitude and negative health impacts, ageism remains a neglected global health issue.
Project description:The purpose of this study is to compare mean levels of loneliness, and correlates of loneliness, among older adults in the U.S. and England. Comparisons are conducted after attending to comparability of the loneliness measure between countries based on tests for discriminatory capacity and differential item functioning of the 3-item UCLA Loneliness Scale. Cross-sectional data from the 2015-16 wave of the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP) and the 2014-2015 wave of the English Longitudinal Study on Ageing (ELSA) were analyzed using graded item response models and multiple indicators and multiple causes (MIMIC) models. Risk factors included demographic variables, health characteristics, and social characteristics that were harmonized across surveys. Because of differences in the racial-ethnic composition of the U.S. and England, analyses were limited to white respondents (N = 2624 in NSHAP; N = 6639 in ELSA). Only respondents born 1925-1965 were included in analyses. Discriminatory capacity was evident in each item being able to distinguish a lonely from a nonlonely individual. Differential item functioning (DIF) was evident in country differences in the likelihood of endorsing the "lack companionship" item at a given level of trait loneliness, and in DIF among marital status, education, and gender subgroups that were comparable across countries. Overall loneliness levels are equivalent in England and the U.S. Risk factor impact did not differ between countries, but differences in risk factor prevalence between countries combined to produce a net result of slightly lower mean levels of loneliness in older adults in England than in the U.S. after risk factor adjustment. The fact that the impact of risk factors were similar across countries suggests that evidence of successful interventions in one country could be leveraged to accelerate development of effective interventions in the other.
Project description:OBJECTIVES:The present study aimed to examine the impact of loneliness on health and social care service use in the oldest old over a 7-year follow-up. DESIGN:Prospective study. SETTING:UK population-based cohort. PARTICIPANTS:713 people aged 80 years or older were interviewed at wave 3 of the Cambridge City over-75s Cohort Study. Of these, 665 provided data on loneliness. During 7 years' follow-up, 480 participants left the study, of which 389 due to death. 162 still in the study answered the loneliness question. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE:Use of health and social care services, assessed at each wave from wave 3 to wave 5. RESULTS:At wave 3, of 665 participants who had data on loneliness, about 60% did not feel lonely, 16% felt slightly lonely and 25% felt lonely. Being slightly lonely at wave 3 was associated with a shorter time since last seeing a general practitioner (β=-0.5, 95% CI: -0.8 to -0.2); when examining the association between time-varying loneliness and health and social care usage, being lonely was associated with three times greater likelihood of having contact with community nurses and using meals on wheels services (community nurse contact: incidence rate ratio (IRR)=3.4, 95% CI: 1.4 to 8.7; meals on wheels service use: IRR=2.5, 95% CI: 1.1 to 5.6). No associations between loneliness and other health and social care services use were found. CONCLUSION:Loneliness was a significant risk factor for certain types of health and social care utilisations, independently of participants' health conditions, in the oldest old. Study findings have several implications, including the need for awareness-raising and prevention of loneliness to be priorities for public health policy and practice.
Project description:Both objective and subjective aspects of social isolation have been associated with alterations in immune markers relevant to multiple chronic diseases among older adults. However, these associations may be confounded by health status, and it is unclear whether these social factors are associated with immune functioning among relatively healthy adults. The goal of this study was to examine the associations between perceived loneliness and circulating levels of inflammatory markers among a diverse sample of adults.Data come from a subset of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (n = 441). Loneliness was measured by three items derived from the UCLA Loneliness Scale. The association between loneliness and C-reactive protein (CRP) and fibrinogen was assessed using multivariable linear regression analyses. Models were adjusted for demographic and health characteristics.Approximately 50% of participants reported that they hardly ever felt lonely and 17.2% felt highly lonely. Individuals who were unmarried/unpartnered or with higher depressive symptoms were more likely to report being highly lonely. There was no relationship between perceived loneliness and ln(CRP) (? = -0.051, p = 0.239) adjusting for demographic and health characteristics. Loneliness was inversely associated with ln(fibrinogen) (? = -0.091, p = 0.040), although the absolute magnitude of this relationship was small.These results indicate that loneliness is not positively associated with fibrinogen or CRP among relatively healthy middle-aged adults.
Project description:OBJECTIVES:While a great deal is known about the risk factors that increase vulnerability to loneliness in later life, little research has explored stability and change in levels of loneliness. METHODS:Narrative interviews were conducted with 11 participants who were identified as being lonely during Wave 1 of the Maintaining Function and Well-being in Later Life Study Wales (CFAS Wales). The interviews were used to explore stability and change in levels of loneliness from the perspective of older people themselves. The interviews focused on participant's perspectives of the events that triggered loneliness, stability, and change in levels of loneliness over time as well as participant's responses to loneliness. RESULTS:The findings show that participants experienced losses and loneliness as biographical disruption. How participants and their wider social network responded to these losses had implications for the individual's trajectory through loneliness. DISCUSSION:Drawing on a biographical lens, the study reframed the events that triggered loneliness as disruptive events. This article discusses the utility of biographical disruption in understanding stability and change in loneliness. The findings suggest how drawing on valued identities may help lonely adults transition out of loneliness.