Social isolation and loneliness: Prospective associations with functional status in older adults

Health Psychol. 2017 Feb;36(2):179-187. doi: 10.1037/hea0000437. Epub 2016 Oct 27.


Objective: The present analysis aimed to examine the associations of isolation and loneliness, individually as well as simultaneously, with 2 measures of functional status (gait speed and difficulties in activities of daily living) in older adults over a 6-year period using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, and to assess if these associations differ by SES.

Method: Loneliness was measured using the short form of the Revised UCLA scale, and an index of social isolation was computed incorporating marital status; frequency of contact with friends, family, and children; and participation in social activities. Measures of functional status were assessed identically at baseline and 6 years later for 3070 participants (mean age 69 years). Wealth was used as an indicator of SES.

Results: In fully and mutually adjusted models, social isolation and loneliness were found to be associated with a decrease in gait speed at follow-up, with stronger effects among more disadvantaged individuals. Loneliness was associated with an increase in difficulties with activities of daily living.

Conclusions: Isolation and loneliness were adversely associated with different aspects of functional status. Interventions to reduce isolation and loneliness may be particularly beneficial for individuals in disadvantaged groups. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Female
  • Friends / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Isolation / psychology*