UoM Academics author paper on loneliness and frailty in older adults

The paper “The longitudinal relationship between loneliness, social isolation, and frailty in older adults in England: a prospective analysis” has been published by Lancet Healthy Longevity.

Katie Davies, of the Manchester University National Health Service Foundation Trust, has authored the paper along with Dr Asri Maharani, Professor Tarani Chandola (MICRA Co-Director), Professor Chris Todd and Professor Neil Pendleton.

The team assessed trends in frailty status associated with loneliness and social isolation over 14 years in a representative sample of English older adults. They used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).

To the researchers’ knowledge, theirs is the first study to use a 14-year period and large sample size to analyse trajectories of the frailty index and the onset of frailty and their association with social isolation and loneliness.

The authors state that the results gathered from their study suggest that both the quantity and perceived quality of social interactions and relationships can adversely affect functioning:

  • A person's subjective negative feeling about their level of contact increases their risk of frailty.
  • Loneliness has been shown to affect neuroendocrine function, with studies showing worse cardiovascular health and biological function in frail individuals.
  • Lonely individuals are also thought to have worse health behaviours such as poorer lifestyles and nutrition, more smoking and alcohol use, and less exercise
  • Loneliness has also been associated with worse sleep patterns and reduced quantity of sleep.

The authors conclude that their study of loneliness and social isolation across a large timespan has provided a greater understanding of their association with frailty, which could inform the design and implementation of interventions.

Read the full paper.

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