Sex-specific impacts of social isolation on loneliness, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, and biomarkers: Results from the social environment and biomarker of aging study

Fei Yuan Hsiao*, Li Ning Peng, Wei Ju Lee, Liang Kung Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: To investigate sex-specific associations between social isolation and psychological outcomes and biomarkers among community-dwelling middle-aged and older adults using a nationally representative population-based cohort study. Methods: Data from 757 participants from the Social Environment and Biomarkers of Aging Study (SEBAS) were retrieved for analysis, and all participants were stratified by sex. The associations between social isolation and psychological outcomes (loneliness, depressive symptoms, and cognitive impairment) at the 4-year follow-up were examined by multivariate logistic regression models, and associations between social isolation and biomarkers at the 4-year follow-up were examined by multivariate generalized linear models (GLMs). Results: For men, social isolation was not associated with the development of loneliness. However, being married (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 0.32 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.13-0.74], p<0.001) was associated with a lower risk of loneliness, indicating potential protective effects of marriage for men. On the other hand, social isolation was associated with a 2-fold higher risk of loneliness in women (aOR 2.26 [1.01-5.09], p<0.001). Social isolation was not associated with depressive symptoms after adjusting for other demographics. For men, being married (aOR 0.51 [0.26-0.99], p<0.05) or having good self-reported health (aOR 0.44 [0.21-0.92], p<0.05) was protective against depressive symptoms. For women, only good self-reported health (aOR 0.30 [0.13-0.70], p<0.01) provided protective effects against depressive symptoms. Similarly, other demographic factors (being married and having a higher educational level) but not social isolation were associated with lower risks of cognitive impairment. No significant associations were noted between social isolation and selected biomarkers. Conclusions: Sex-different associations between social isolation and loneliness were noted; the effects of demographic factors, such as being married, self-reported health status, and high education levels, on subsequent loneliness, depression, and cognitive function were also sex-different. Further intervention studies are needed to explore sex-specific approaches to deal with the interplay of social isolation, loneliness, psychological outcomes and other demographic factors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104872
JournalArchives of Gerontology and Geriatrics
Volume106
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Keywords

  • Biomarkers
  • Cognition
  • Depression
  • Healthy aging
  • Loneliness
  • Mental health
  • Social isolation

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