|Title||The epidemiology of social isolation and loneliness among older adults during the last years of life.|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2021|
|Authors||Kotwal, AA, Cenzer, I, Waite, LJ, Covinsky, KE, Perissinotto, CM, W Boscardin, J, Hawkley, LC, Dale, W, Smith, AK|
|Journal||Journal of the American Geriatrics Society|
|Keywords||Cognition, end of life, Loneliness, Palliative care, social isolation|
BACKGROUND: Social isolation and loneliness are critical to the health of older adults, but they have not been well-described at the end of life.
OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence and correlates of social isolation and loneliness among older adults in the last years of life.
DESIGN: Nationally representative, cross-sectional survey.
SETTING: Health and Retirement Study, 2006-2016 data.
PARTICIPANTS: Adults age > 50 interviewed once in the last 4 years of life (n = 3613).
MEASUREMENTS: We defined social isolation using a 15-item scale measuring household contacts, social network interaction, and community engagement, and frequent loneliness using the 3-item UCLA Loneliness Scale. We used multivariable logistic regression to determine their adjusted prevalence by time prior-to-death and by subgroups of interest.
RESULTS: Approximately 19% experienced social isolation, 18% loneliness, and 5% both in the last 4 years of life (correlation = 0.11). The adjusted prevalence of social isolation was higher for individuals nearer to death (4 years: 18% vs 0-3 months: 27%, p = 0.05) and there was no significant change in loneliness (4 years: 19% vs 0-3 months: 23%, p = 0.13). Risk factors for both isolation and loneliness included (p < 0.01): low net-worth (Isolation: 34% vs 14%; Loneliness: 29% vs 13%), hearing impairment (Isolation: 26% vs 20%; Loneliness: 26% vs 17%), and difficulty preparing meals (Isolation: 27% vs 19%; Loneliness: 29% vs 15%). Factors associated with loneliness, but not social isolation, included being female, pain, incontinence, and cognitive impairment.
CONCLUSIONS: Social isolation and loneliness are common at the end of life, affecting 1 in 4 older adults, but few experience both. Rates were higher for older adults who were poor and experienced functional or sensory impairments. Results can inform clinical efforts to identify and address end-of-life psychosocial suffering and health policies which prioritize social needs at the end of life.
|PubMed Central ID||PMC8595510|
|Grant List|| / / Hellman Foundation / |
K23AG065438 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
P30AG044281 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R03AG064323 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
/ / National Palliative Care Research Center /