Longitudinal Study of Loneliness, Health, and Mortality in Old Age

Louise Hawkley, University of Chicago
Ye Luo, Clemson University
John Cacioppo, University of Chicago

This study examines the relationship between loneliness, health, and mortality using a nationally representative sample of 2,101 adults aged 50 years and over from the 2002 to 2008 waves of the Health and Retirement Study. Feelings of loneliness are associated with increased mortality risk over a 6-year period, and this relationship is diminished when depressive symptoms and physical health are added to the model. Further analyses of the relationship between loneliness and physical health using structural equation models show that loneliness has negative 2-year cross-lagged effects on self-rated health and positive effects on functional limitations even when the reciprocal effects of self-rated health and functional limitations on loneliness are taken into account. The effect of loneliness on self-rated health is fully explained by the effect of loneliness on depressive symptoms, but the direct effect of loneliness on functional limitations persists.

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Presented in Session 139: Socio-Economic and Psycho-Social Influences on Health and Mortality