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      The impact of loneliness on healthcare use in older people: evidence from a nationally representative cohort

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          Abstract

          Aim

          Concerns around loneliness leading to increased healthcare use persist in spite of a mixed evidence base and lack of adjustment for key potential confounders. We investigated the associations among loneliness, health and healthcare use in older adults including stratification to investigate whether these associations differ by gender.

          Subject and methods

          Secondary analysis of a nationally representative sample of 8175 community-dwelling adults aged 50 years and over from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA). Primary outcomes were self-reported general practitioner (GP) and emergency department (ED) visits in the past 12 months. Negative binomial and logistic regression analysis was used to investigate associations between loneliness and healthcare use, later adjusting for potential mediators (health and health behaviours).

          Results

          Loneliness was consistently positively associated with number of GP visits according to both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses, with incidence rate ratios (IRRs) ranging from 1.08 to 1.33 in the sample overall. Associations with ED visits were less consistent. After adjusting for health and health behaviours, male loneliness does not appear to influence ED or GP visits. However, women who reported loneliness had an elevated risk of an ED visit at wave 1 (W1; odds ratio (OR) 1.08 [1.01–1.16]), as well as increased GP visits at both waves (IRRs ranging from 1.05 [1.02–1.07] to 1.16 [1.07–1.26]).

          Conclusion

          Older women experiencing loneliness visit their GP more often irrespective of health, health behaviours or social isolation. While effect sizes were small, there are implications for health service resources at a population level. Importantly, however, this may also be a useful opportunity to redirect towards appropriate services and tailored resources.

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          Most cited references36

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          International physical activity questionnaire: 12-country reliability and validity.

          Physical inactivity is a global concern, but diverse physical activity measures in use prevent international comparisons. The International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) was developed as an instrument for cross-national monitoring of physical activity and inactivity. Between 1997 and 1998, an International Consensus Group developed four long and four short forms of the IPAQ instruments (administered by telephone interview or self-administration, with two alternate reference periods, either the "last 7 d" or a "usual week" of recalled physical activity). During 2000, 14 centers from 12 countries collected reliability and/or validity data on at least two of the eight IPAQ instruments. Test-retest repeatability was assessed within the same week. Concurrent (inter-method) validity was assessed at the same administration, and criterion IPAQ validity was assessed against the CSA (now MTI) accelerometer. Spearman's correlation coefficients are reported, based on the total reported physical activity. Overall, the IPAQ questionnaires produced repeatable data (Spearman's rho clustered around 0.8), with comparable data from short and long forms. Criterion validity had a median rho of about 0.30, which was comparable to most other self-report validation studies. The "usual week" and "last 7 d" reference periods performed similarly, and the reliability of telephone administration was similar to the self-administered mode. The IPAQ instruments have acceptable measurement properties, at least as good as other established self-reports. Considering the diverse samples in this study, IPAQ has reasonable measurement properties for monitoring population levels of physical activity among 18- to 65-yr-old adults in diverse settings. The short IPAQ form "last 7 d recall" is recommended for national monitoring and the long form for research requiring more detailed assessment.
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            The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale

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              Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review.

              Actual and perceived social isolation are both associated with increased risk for early mortality. In this meta-analytic review, our objective is to establish the overall and relative magnitude of social isolation and loneliness and to examine possible moderators. We conducted a literature search of studies (January 1980 to February 2014) using MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Social Work Abstracts, and Google Scholar. The included studies provided quantitative data on mortality as affected by loneliness, social isolation, or living alone. Across studies in which several possible confounds were statistically controlled for, the weighted average effect sizes were as follows: social isolation odds ratio (OR) = 1.29, loneliness OR = 1.26, and living alone OR = 1.32, corresponding to an average of 29%, 26%, and 32% increased likelihood of mortality, respectively. We found no differences between measures of objective and subjective social isolation. Results remain consistent across gender, length of follow-up, and world region, but initial health status has an influence on the findings. Results also differ across participant age, with social deficits being more predictive of death in samples with an average age younger than 65 years. Overall, the influence of both objective and subjective social isolation on risk for mortality is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                (View ORCID Profile)
                Journal
                Journal of Public Health
                J Public Health (Berl.)
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                2198-1833
                1613-2238
                March 2022
                June 22 2020
                March 2022
                : 30
                : 3
                : 675-684
                Article
                10.1007/s10389-020-01338-4
                c7e97fdb-2867-4148-90d3-098a2c70bb92
                © 2022

                https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

                https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

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