Profiles of loneliness and social isolation in physically active and inactive older adults in rural England

Jolanthe de Koning, Suzanne H Richards, Grace E R Wood, Afroditi Stathi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Loneliness and social isolation are associated with higher risk of morbidity and mortality and physical inactivity in older age. This study explored the socioecological context in which both physically active and inactive older adults experience loneliness and/or social isolation in a UK rural setting.

Design: A mixed-methods design employed semi structured interviews and accelerometer-measured moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Interviews explored the personal, social and environmental factors influencing engagement with physical activities, guided by an adapted-socioecological model of physical activity behaviour.

Findings: Twenty-four older adults (Mean Age = 73 (5.8 SD); 12 women) were interviewed. Transcripts were thematically analysed and seven profiles of physical activity, social isolation and loneliness were identified. The high-MVPA group had established PA habits, reported several sources of social contact and evaluated their physical environment as activity friendly. The low MVPA group had diverse experiences of past engagement in social activities. Similar to the high MVPA, they reported a range of sources of social contact but they did not perceive the physical environment as activity friendly.

Conclusions: Loneliness and/or social isolation was reported by both physically active and inactive older adults. There is wide diversity and complexity in types and intensity of PA, loneliness and social isolation profiles and personal, social and environmental contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3971
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume18
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • aging
  • mental health
  • qualitative
  • activity
  • socio-ecological
  • environment

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