Older adults who are able to withstand socially isolating circumstances or adjust their expectations so they do not develop strong feelings of loneliness may fare better, the study suggests. "We need to better understand how older adults adapt to changes in their social relationships," Waite added.
The work is reported in the article, "Social Disconnectedness, Perceived Isolation and Health Among Older Adults," published in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, a quarterly journal of the American Sociological Association. Waite conducted the study with lead author Erin York Cornwell, a Postdoctoral Associate in Sociology at Cornell University who completed her Ph.D. in Sociology at Chicago in 2008.
For their research, the scholars examined the results of the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, a nationally representative study of older adults supported by the National Institute on Aging. The study, a comprehensive look at aging and health, included interviews with about 3,000 people aged 57 to 85 between 2005 and 2006.
Because of the size of the survey, the scholars were able to consider in detail older adults' social networks, their participation in social activities, their feelings of loneliness and their perceptions of the availability of help or advice from friends and family members. They also asked questions about physical health, mental health and feelings of sadness or depression.
The work should help policymakers develop programs to compensate for the problems brought on by social disconnectedness and loneliness among older people.
Aging often brings changes in social relationships as individuals retire, take up new activities, endure losses and experienc
|Contact: William Harms|
University of Chicago