Frailty and Social Isolation: Comparing the Relationship between Frailty and Unidimensional and Multifactorial Models of Social Isolation

J Aging Health. 2020 Dec;32(10):1297-1308. doi: 10.1177/0898264320923245. Epub 2020 Jun 9.


Objective: The aim of the study was to compare uni- and multidimensional models of social isolation to improve the specificity of determining associations between social isolation and frailty. Methods: The study included participants aged ≥60 years from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing assessed for social isolation and frailty (frailty index and Fried phenotype) over a 4-year period. Factor analysis assessed whether social isolation was multidimensional. Multiple regression analysis was used to assess specificity in associations between social isolation and frailty over time. Results: Social isolation comprises social isolation from nuclear family, other immediate family, and wider social networks. Over time, social isolation from a wider social network predicted higher frailty index levels, and higher frailty index and Fried phenotype levels predicted greater social isolation from a wider social network. Discussion: Social isolation is multidimensional. The reciprocal relationship between social isolation from wider social networks and accumulating frailty deficits, and frailty as a clinical syndrome influencing social isolation from social networks is discussed.

Keywords: elderly; frailty; loneliness; social isolation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Frailty / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Isolation*