Risk factors and mediating pathways of loneliness and social support in community-dwelling older adults
Schnittger RIB., Wherton J., Prendergast D., Lawlor BA.
Objectives: To develop biopsychosocial models of loneliness and social support thereby identifying their key risk factors in an Irish sample of community-dwelling older adults. Additionally, to investigate indirect effects of social support on loneliness through mediating risk factors. Methods: A total of 579 participants (400 females; 179 males) were given a battery of biopsychosocial assessments with the primary measures being the De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale and the Lubben Social Network Scale along with a broad range of secondary measures. Analysis: Bivariate correlation analyses identified items to be included in separate psychosocial, cognitive, biological and demographic multiple regression analyses. The resulting model items were then entered into further multiple regression analyses to obtain overall models. Following this, bootstrapping mediation analyses was conducted to examine indirect effects of social support on the subtypes (emotional and social) of loneliness. Results: The overall model for (1) emotional loneliness included depression, neuroticism, perceived stress, living alone and accommodation type, (2) social loneliness included neuroticism, perceived stress, animal naming and number of grandchildren and (3) social support included extraversion, executive functioning (Trail Making Test B-time), history of falls, age and whether the participant drives or not. Social support influenced emotional loneliness predominantly through indirect means, while its effect on social loneliness was more direct. Conclusions: These results characterise the biopsychosocial risk factors of emotional loneliness, social loneliness and social support and identify key pathways by which social support influences emotional and social loneliness. These findings highlight issues with the potential for consideration in the development of targeted interventions. © 2012 Taylor & Francis.