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LIVING ALONE, SOCIAL SUPPORT, AND FEELING LONELY AMONG THE ELDERLY

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This study aimed to describe the characteristics of the elderly population living alone, and to examine how living alone relates to feeling lonely. Interviews were conducted with a stratified random sample of 4,859 elderly individuals living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Variables collected included demographic information, living alone or not, activities of daily living (ADL), instrumental activities of daily living (IADL), Short Portable Mental Status Questionnaire (SPMSQ), chronic conditions, perceived social support, and a subjective measure of feeling lonely. Using logistic regression, it was found that factors associated with living alone included gender, marital status, occupation, source of income, religion, and IADL. Living alone was, in turn, related to decreased levels of both perceived social support and feeling lonely after adjustment for potential confounders. Managing retired life is important for adult elders, particularly for men. Lack of social support is common among the elderly community who live alone, which could well be a main reason for this group to feel lonely. As loneliness is linked to physical and mental health problems, increasing social support and facilitating friendship should be factored into life-style management for communities of elderly.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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