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Stress and isolation take toll on those under 50 with HIV; older people fare better
Date:11/21/2013

Case Western Reserve University researchers were surprised to learn that people younger than 50 years old with HIV feel more isolated and stressed than older people with the disease. They expected their study to reveal just the opposite.

"The younger, newly diagnosed individual may not know anyone in their peer group with a chronic illness, much less HIV," said Allison Webel, PhD, RN, assistant professor at Case Western Reserve's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

Webel's research group studied 102 men and women recruited between 2011-12 from HIV-related clinics, service organizations and a registry of individuals with the illness. They focused on associations between stress, age and social isolation.

Participants ranged from 18 to 64 years old. The groups were divided into younger than 50 and over 50.

"While 50 years of age is not generally used to identify "elderly" patients, this age cut-off is frequently used by the CDC in HIV/AIDS statistics." (Nguyen & Holodiny, 2008, HIV infection in the elderly Clinical Intervention and Aging)

The average participant in this study was African-American, 48 years old, who had managed HIV for nearly 14 years and low income. This is generally reflective of the Midwest population with HIV/AIDS that also includes more women, primarily African American, and heterosexual, Webel said.

Researchers found those under 50 felt more disconnected from family and friends than older people. Stigma was a major contributor, Webel said, because younger people don't as easily identify with having to battle a chronic illness. They may also feel blamed by others for their illness and avoid people because they are sick.

She also said the over-50 group, which was less stressed, had developed social networks over the years that they could rely on for support, such as getting rides to doctor's appointments.

The study countered previous research that suggested olde
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Contact: Susan Griffith
susan.griffith@case.edu
216-368-1004
Case Western Reserve University
Source:Eurekalert

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