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Feeling Lonely Affects Health Perception of Older Adults

Perceived lack of social support associated with poorer perception of health

MONDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- As well as social isolation, feelings of loneliness and lack of social support are associated with a poorer self-perception of health among the elderly, according to a report published in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Erin York Cornwell, Ph.D., of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and Linda J. Waite, Ph.D., of the University of Chicago, analyzed data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, which comprised interviews with 3,005 people aged between 57 and 85 years. The researchers looked not just at the social networks of older adults, but also the subjects' perceptions of social connectedness.

Both social disconnectedness and perceived isolation are independently associated with lower self-ratings of physical health, the investigators found, and mental health also suffers as a result of the two forms of isolation.

"From the standpoint of health promotion, our results may suggest that older adults who are able to withstand socially isolating circumstances or adjust their expectations so that they do not develop a subjective sense of isolation may fare better, with respect to physical and mental health, than those who feel isolated," the authors write. "This is an important issue because aging typically involves profound challenges to social connectedness, such as retirement and bereavement."

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