The discrepancy between social isolation and loneliness as a clinically meaningful metric: findings from the Irish and English longitudinal studies of ageing (TILDA and ELSA)

J E McHugh, B A Lawlor, F Kee, A Steptoe, R A Kenny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Objective
Scant evidence is available on the discordance between loneliness and social isolation among older adults. We aimed to investigate this discordance and any health implications that it may have.

Method
Using nationally representative datasets from ageing cohorts in Ireland (TILDA) and England (ELSA), we created a metric of discordance between loneliness and social isolation, to which we refer as Social Asymmetry. This metric was the categorised difference between standardised scores on a scale of loneliness and a scale of social isolation, giving categories of: Concordantly Lonely and Isolated, Discordant: Robust to Loneliness, or Discordant: Susceptible to Loneliness. We used regression and multilevel modelling to identify potential relationships between Social Asymmetry and cognitive outcomes.

Results
Social Asymmetry predicted cognitive outcomes cross-sectionally and at a two-year follow-up, such that Discordant: Robust to Loneliness individuals were superior performers, but we failed to find evidence for Social Asymmetry as a predictor of cognitive trajectory over time.

Conclusions
We present a new metric and preliminary evidence of a relationship with clinical outcomes. Further research validating this metric in different populations, and evaluating its relationship with other outcomes, is warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Early online date01 Jun 2016
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 01 Jun 2016

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