Cognitive health risks posed by social isolation and loneliness in older Korean Americans

Yuri Jang, Eun Young Choi, Nan Sook Park, David A. Chiriboga, Lei Duan, Miyong T. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: This study examines associations among social isolation, loneliness, and cognitive health risks in older Korean Americans, focusing on the mediating role of loneliness in the relationship between social isolation and objective and subjective measures of cognitive impairment. Methods: Data are from 2061 participants in the Study of Older Korean Americans, a multi-state survey of Korean immigrants age 60 and older (Mage = 73.2, SD = 7.93). Social isolation was indexed with the Lubben Social Network Scale− 6; loneliness, with the short-form UCLA Loneliness Scale. Objective and subjective measures of cognitive impairment included the Mini-Mental State Examination and a single-item self-rating of cognitive health. Results: In the logistic regression model for objective cognitive impairment, social isolation was significantly associated, but loneliness was not. In the model for subjective cognitive impairment, both social isolation and loneliness were significant factors. However, the effect of social isolation became non-significant when loneliness was considered, suggesting a potential mediating role of loneliness. The subsequent mediation analysis confirmed that the indirect effect of social isolation on subjective cognitive impairment through loneliness was significant (B =.20, SE =.03, 95% CI =.12,.28). Conclusion: Our analyses provide evidence for the proposed mediating effect of loneliness in the relationship between social isolation and subjective cognitive impairment. Intervention efforts should focus on reducing feelings of loneliness experienced by older immigrants, possibly by engaging them in socially meaningful and cognitively stimulating activities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number123
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is supported by the National Institute on Aging (R01AG047106, PI: Yuri Jang, Ph.D.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Cognitive impairment
  • Loneliness
  • Older Korean Americans
  • Social isolation


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