Wealth inequalities in loneliness among older people in Europe: the role of functional limitations

Niedzwiedz, C. , Mitchell, R. and Pearce, J. (2015) Wealth inequalities in loneliness among older people in Europe: the role of functional limitations. European Journal of Public Health, 25(Supp 3), p. 192. (doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckv172.052)

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Publisher's URL: http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/content/25/suppl_3/ckv172.052


Introduction: Loneliness is increasingly recognised as a public health issue, especially among older people. Little is known about the social determinants of loneliness in a cross-national context. This study describes inequalities in loneliness among older people in Europe and explores functional limitations as a potential mediator. Methods: Individuals (65+ years from 14 countries, N = 31,292) participating in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, collected during 2013, were analysed. Loneliness was measured by a validated 3-item scale, which asks about participants’ feelings of isolation and lack of companionship. Current wealth was measured in quintiles and slope indices of inequality (SIIs) calculated. Functional limitations were measured by the number of limitations with activities of daily living (ADL) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL). Linear multilevel regression models were calculated, controlling for confounders. The interaction between SIIs and region (Southern, Northern, Central, Eastern) were examined and direct and indirect effects from wealth to loneliness calculated. Results: Loneliness decreased with increased wealth (SII=−0.22 95% CI: −0.28 to −0.17). Loneliness was highest in Southern and lowest in Northern regions. Compared to Southern countries, inequalities were narrower in all other regions, especially in Northern (p = 0.008 for interaction) countries. An increased number of ADL was related to a higher level of loneliness (b = 0.26 95% CI: 0.25 to 0.28), IADL (b = 0.23 95% CI: 0.22 to 0.25). ADL was estimated to mediate 23.87% of the total effect of wealth on loneliness, the equivalent result for IADL was 37.41% for which there was a larger indirect effect. Conclusions: Inequalities in loneliness by wealth were apparent among older Europeans; largest in Southern countries. Functional limitations were related to increased loneliness and are a potentially important mediator on the pathway from wealth to loneliness.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Abstracts, 8th European Public Health Conference Health in Europe - from global to local policies, methods and practices Milan, Italy 14–17 October 2015
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mitchell, Professor Rich and Niedzwiedz, Dr Claire
Authors: Niedzwiedz, C., Mitchell, R., and Pearce, J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > Public Health
Journal Name:European Journal of Public Health
Publisher:Oxford University Press

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
590542Wellcome 096987 - E CannellShireen DaviesWellcome Trust (WELLCOME)096987/Z/11/ZRI MOLECULAR CELL & SYSTEMS BIOLOGY