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Social Isolation and Loneliness: Differences between Older Rural and Urban Manitobans*

  • Betty Havens, Madelyn Hall, Gina Sylvestre and Tyler Jivan

Abstract

The purpose of this paper was to identify predictors of social isolation and loneliness for very old rural and urban adults. With data from the 1996 Aging in Manitoba Study (N = 1,868; age range 72–104), separate multiple regression models were constructed for rural and urban sub-samples, using the life space index (LSI) to measure social isolation as one outcome, and a loneliness index created by the authors from a combination of items to measure loneliness as a second outcome. Different factors were found to predict the outcomes for the two sub-samples. The models with isolation as the outcome produced five predictors for the rural sub-sample and three for the urban sub-sample. Only living alone was the same for both groups. The models with loneliness as the outcome produced five predictors for the rural sub-sample and two for the urban sub-sample, again with only one factor in common – four or more chronic illnesses. We conclude that health and social factors are important predictors of social isolation and loneliness, and sensitivity to these factors may improve the experience of older adults.

Dans ce mémoire, on a cherché à identifier les prédicteurs de l'isolement social et de la solitude chez les personnes duquatrième âge résidant en milieu rural et urbain. À partir de données tirées de l'étude de 1996 intitulée Aging in Manitoba(N = 1868, plage d'âge 72 à 104 ans), on a établi des modèles de régression multiple portant sur des sous-échantillonsde sujets résidant en milieu rural et urbain et utilisé l'échelle d'interaction sociale (life space index) pour mesurerl'isolement social, d'une part, et une échelle de solitude (loneliness index) créée par les auteures à partir de plusieursitems pour mesurer la solitude, d'autre part. On a découvert que différents facteurs permettaient de prédire les résultatsdes deux sous-échantillons. On a tiré cinq prédicteurs des modèles associés à l'isolement pour le sous-échantillonde sujets résidant en milieu rural et trois prédicteurs pour le sous-échantillon des citadins. Seul le facteur « vivre seul » donnait le même résultat dans les deux groupes. Quant aux modèles liés à la solitude, on a obtenu cinq prédicteurspour le sous-échantillon de sujets résidant en milieu rural et deux prédicteurs pour le sous-échantillon des citadins, lesdeux groupes ayant à nouveau un seul facteur en commun, au moins quatre maladies chroniques. Les auteures ontconclu que les facteurs « santé » et « contacts sociaux » sont d'importants prédicteurs de l'isolement social et de la solitude,et qu'on pourrait améliorer la situation des personnes âgées en prêtant une plus grande attention à ces facteurs.

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Financial Support was provided through SSHRC Grant # 828–1999–1000, with related research supported by Health Canada (NHRDP, PWHCE, DAS, CIHR, MRC), Manitoba Health, and Veterans Affairs Canada. Administrative support from the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba and collaboration from Dr. R. Tate, H. Dyck, and Y. Hosain are gratefully acknowledged. Our greatest appreciation is reserved for the 8,946 older Aging in Manitoba Study participants, who have made all of our research possible.

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Social Isolation and Loneliness: Differences between Older Rural and Urban Manitobans*

  • Betty Havens, Madelyn Hall, Gina Sylvestre and Tyler Jivan

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