L.GE1, C.W.YAP1, R.ONG1, B.H.HENG1
National Healthcare Group Corporate Office1
There is a shortage of research evidence about the effects of social isolation and loneliness on frailty among community-dwelling older population. The purpose of the study is to examine the longitudinal association between social connectedness and loneliness and level of frailty.
The study included 485 participants aged 60 years and above with three-wave data from the Population Health Survey. At each wave, social connectedness and loneliness were assessed using the Lubben Social Network Scale-6 and the three-item UCLA Loneliness Scale, respectively. Level of frailty (non-frail, vulnerable-mildly frail, and frail) was determined using the descriptors of the Clinical Frailty Scale. Random-effects ordinal logistic regression for panel data was conducted with level of frailty as the dependent variable and social connectedness and loneliness as the independent variables, adjusting for socio-demographics, comorbidity, and nutritional status.
Older adults having better connectedness with friends were less likely to be vulnerable-mildly frail or frail (odds ratio: 0.92, 95% CI: 0.86-0.99), and those feeling lonely were more likely to be vulnerable-mildly frail or frail (odds ratio: 3.39, 95% CI: 1.67-6.92), adjusting for socio-demographics and potential confounders. Surprisingly, those living alone were less likely to be vulnerable-mildly frail or frail (odds ratio: 0.30, 95% CI: 0.14-0.64) and connectedness with family had no significant association with frailty.
Social disconnectedness with friends and loneliness were associated with higher level of frailty among older adults. Promoting social connectedness with a wider social network and reducing loneliness might be a good strategy for tackling frailty.