Both loneliness and social networks have been linked with mood and wellbeing. However, few studies have examined these factors simultaneously in community-dwelling participants. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between social network, loneliness, depression, anxiety and quality of life in community dwelling older people living in Dublin.
One thousand two hundred and ninety-nine people aged 65 and over, recruited through primary care practices, were interviewed in their own homes using the GMS-AGECAT. Social network was assessed using Wenger's typology.
35% of participants were lonely, with 9% describing it as painful and 6% as intrusive. Similarly, 34% had a non-integrated social network. However, the two constructs were distinct: 32% of participants with an integrated social network reported being lonely. Loneliness was higher in women, the widowed and those with physical disability and increased with age, but when age-related variables were controlled for this association was non-significant. Wellbeing, depressed mood and hopelessness were all independently associated with both loneliness and non-integrated social network. In particular, loneliness explained the excess risk of depression in the widowed. The population attributable risk (PAR) associated with loneliness was 61%, compared with 19% for non-integrated social network. Taken together they had a PAR of 70%
Loneliness and social networks both independently affect mood and wellbeing in the elderly, underlying a very significant proportion of depressed mood. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.