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Loneliness, Social Isolation Tied to Fall Risk in Older Adults

Last Updated: December 18, 2020.


FRIDAY, Dec. 18, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Social isolation may be a risk factor for falls among older adults, according to a study published online Dec. 10 in Scientific Reports.

Feifei Bu, Ph.D., from University College London, and colleagues examined the longitudinal association between loneliness, social isolation, and falls (self-reported falls: 4,013; those requiring hospital admissions: 9,285) among older adults. Data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing was linked to Hospital Episode Statistics.

The researchers observed a 5 percent increase in the risk for self-reported falls for a 1-point increase in loneliness independent of sociodemographic factors (hazard ratio, 1.05; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.02 to 1.08). However, when adjusting for individual differences in health and lifestyle measures, the association was no longer significant (hazard ratio, 1.03; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.00 to 1.07). The risk for self-reported falls was greater among those living alone (hazard ratio, 1.18; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.07 to 1.32) and with low social contact (hazard ratio, 1.04; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.01 to 1.07) even after controlling for sociodemographic, health, and lifestyle differences. Associations were similar for hospital admissions following a fall.

"Whilst this study uses data collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, its findings are particularly important in light of the pandemic as there is likely a heightened risk of loneliness and social isolation due to lockdown and social distancing measures," the authors write.

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