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Social Isolation and Depression in Older Adults

Aging Ment Health; ePub 2018 Oct 4; Cho, et al

Older adults with objective social isolation may experience sleep disturbance, depression, and fatigue because they feel socially isolated, not just because they are deprived of social networks, a recent study found. Therefore, interventions that target social isolation might serve as potential treatments for improving behavioral health of older adults, especially by targeting its subjective component. Randomly selected community-dwelling individuals (n=2,541) in Los Angeles aged ≥60 years were telephone-interviewed regarding their objective and subjective social isolation (respectively social network size and loneliness), sleep disturbance, depression, and fatigue. Researchers found:

  • When objective and subjective social isolation were separately included in multivariate regression models, both were significantly associated with behavioral symptoms.
  • However, once they were simultaneously included in the same multivariate models, while subjective social isolation remained strongly associated (adjusted beta 0.24 for sleep disturbance, 0.44 for depression, 0.17 for fatigue), objective social isolation was weakly or non-significantly associated (-0.04 for sleep disturbance, -0.01 for depression, -0.003 for fatigue).
  • Additionally, those with objective social isolation were found to have worse symptoms, mostly when they also experienced subjective social isolation.


Cho J H-J, Olmstead R, Choi H, Carrillo C, Seeman TE, Irwin MR. Associations of objective versus subjective social isolation with sleep disturbance, depression, and fatigue in community-dwelling older adults. [Published online ahead of print October 4, 2018]. Aging Ment Health. doi:10.1080/13607863.2018.1481928.

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