Social Disconnectedness and Loneliness: Do Self-Perceptions of Aging Play a Role?

TitleSocial Disconnectedness and Loneliness: Do Self-Perceptions of Aging Play a Role?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsHu, RXiaochen, Li, LW
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology, Series B
ISSN Number1758-5368
KeywordsAgeism, Loneliness, social isolation, Social networks

OBJECTIVE: Research suggests that self-perceptions of aging (SPA) have effects on physical, mental, cognitive, and emotional well-being among older adults. Few studies have examined the effects of SPA on social well-being. This study investigates the association of SPA with trajectories of social disconnectedness and loneliness in older Americans and explores mechanisms linking SPA and the two forms of social isolation.

METHOD: We conducted Latent Growth Curve Modeling and path analysis using 3-wave data spanning 8 years (2008/2010 - 2016/2018) from the Health and Retirement Study. The sample included respondents aged 65 and older (N = 3,597) at baseline (2008/2010). SPA was measured by the Attitudes Toward Own Aging Scale. Social disconnectedness was an index including 6 indicators of social networks and social engagement. Loneliness was measured using the 11-item UCLA Loneliness Scale.

RESULTS: Older adults with more negative SPA at baseline were more lonely but had slower rates of increase in loneliness during the 8-year study period. More negative SPA also predicted greater social disconnectedness but was not significantly related to the rate of change in social disconnectedness over time. The effects of SPA on social disconnectedness were primarily indirect through loneliness, whereas SPA had direct effects on loneliness. Overall, SPA had a stronger association with loneliness than with social disconnectedness.

DISCUSSION: The results suggest that older adults with negative SPA are at risk of loneliness which then leads to social disconnectedness. Asking about SPA during individual assessment with older adults may help to discern issues with loneliness.

Citation Key12322
PubMed ID35085397
PubMed Central IDPMC9071429