Social isolation and multiple chronic diseases after age 50: A European macro-regional analysis
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Background. Different studies have found that socioeconomic determinants influence the prevalence of chronic diseases in older people. However, there has been relatively little research on the incidence of how social isolation may affect them. We suggest that social isolation is a serious concern for people living with chronic illnesses. Method In this paper, we examine whether there is an increase in the propensity of being diagnosed with chronic illnesses because of a decrease in social relations for elderly Europeans. We have used a panel data for Waves 1±6 (2004±2015) of Survey on Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and logistic regressions. Besides, we have studied three geographic macro-areas (Nordic, Continental and Southern). Being diagnosed with three or more chronic diseases is considered as a dependent variable, and as social control variables we have used three isolation proxies (living alone, providing help to family, friends or neighbours and participation-club activities). Other socio-demographic variables are included (gender, age, educational level, job situation, area of location and quality of life). Results. Our results for the full sample indicate that people who participate in social activities have fewer probability of suffering from chronic diseases (OR = 0.70, 95% CI 0.54, 0.92). For people who live alone the reverse effect is observed (OR = 1.20, 95% CI 1.04, 1.39). Differences are shown by macro-areas, e.g. providing help (OR = 0.58, 95% CI 0.34, 0.97) isolation proxy is significant for the Nordic macro-area. Club-participation activities and living alone are significant for Continental and Southern macro-areas, respectively (OR = 0.65, 95% CI 0.55, 0.82; OR = 1.46, 95% CI 1.21, 1.77). Conclusions. Social isolation increases the risk of being diagnosed with chronic illnesses. That is, people with greater social participation have lower risk of suffering from multiple chronic diseases.
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