Differentiating objective and subjective dimensions of social isolation and apprasing their relations with physical and mental health in italian older adults

Maddalena Fiordelli, Gabriele Sak, Benedetta Guggiari, Peter J. Schulz, Serena Petrocchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: International research shows that social isolation is harmful for health, especially for the elderly. Its objective and subjective dimensions are important to distinguish as each stands in a different relation with health. The first aim of the present study is the validation of three scales measuring objective and subjective isolation in an Italian elderly population. The second aim is to analyze subjective and objective social isolation and to appraise their association with health among seniors. Methods: This cross-sectional survey collected data from 306 over 65 s participants. Questionnaires were administered face-to-face by one author and encompassed: social disconnectedness scale; perceived isolation scale; abbreviated Lubben Social Network Scale; measures of general and mental health, and depression. Results: The three scales measuring social isolation demonstrated acceptable psychometric properties and validity. Objective and subjective social isolation were not directly associated with physical health, whereas subjective isolation is strongly linked to worse mental health and depression. Higher level of subjective isolation was associated with lower level of physical health through the mediation of mental health. Subjective isolation served as a mediator in the relation between objective isolation and health. Moderation analysis demonstrated that low values of objective isolation predicted high values of mental health but only when subjective isolation was low. None of these relations were moderated by socio-demographic variables. Conclusion: Subjective and objective isolation are clearly two separate dimensions and the scales validated in this paper showed to be potentially culturally invariant. Researchers should work to find instruments able to depict the complexity of the construct of social isolation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number472
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Italian translation
  • Italian validation
  • Loneliness
  • Mental health
  • Older adults
  • Physical health
  • Social isolation
  • Validation

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