OBJECTIVES: To determine the role of activity status and social life satisfaction on the report of insomnia symptoms and sleeping habits.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional telephone survey using the Sleep-EVAL knowledge base system.
SETTING: Representative samples of three general populations (United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy).
PARTICIPANTS: 13,057 subjects age 15 and older: 4,972 in the United Kingdom, 4,115 in Germany, and 3,970 in Italy. These subjects were representative of 160 million inhabitants.
MEASUREMENTS: Clinical questionnaire on insomnia and investigation of associated pathologies (psychiatric and neurological disorders).
RESULTS: Insomnia symptoms were reported by more than one-third of the population age 65 and older. Multivariate models showed that age was not a predictive factor of insomnia symptoms when controlling for activity status and social life satisfaction. The level of activity and social interactions had no influence on napping, but age was found to have a significant positive effect on napping.
CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that the aging process per se is not responsible for the increase of insomnia often reported in older people. Instead, inactivity, dissatisfaction with social life, and the presence of organic diseases and mental disorders were the best predictors of insomnia, age being insignificant. Healthy older people (i.e., without organic or mental pathologies) have a prevalence of insomnia symptoms similar to that observed in younger people. Moreover, being active and satisfied with social life are protective factors against insomnia at any age.