Relationships between non-communicable disease, social isolation and frailty in community dwelling adults in later life: findings from the Hertfordshire Cohort Study.
Bevilacqua G., Jameson KA., Zhang J., Bloom I., Fuggle NR., Patel HP., Ward KA., Cooper C., Dennison EM.
BACKGROUND: Social relationships play a fundamental role in individuals' lives and health, and social isolation is prevalent among older people. Chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and frailty are also common in older adults. AIMS: To examine the association between number of NCDs and social isolation in a cohort of community-dwelling older adults in the UK, and to consider whether any potential association is mediated by frailty. METHODS: NCDs were self-reported by 176 older community-dwelling UK adults via questionnaire. Social isolation was assessed using the six-item Lubben Social Network Scale. Frailty was assessed by the Fried phenotype of physical frailty. RESULTS: The median (IQR) age of participants in this study was 83.1 (81.5-85.5) years for men and 83.8 (81.5-85.9) years for women. The proportion of socially isolated individuals was 19% in men and 20% in women. More women (18%) than men (13%) were identified as frail. The number of NCDs was associated with higher odds of being isolated in women (unadjusted odds ratio per additional NCD: 1.65, 95% CI 1.08, 2.52, p = 0.021), but not in men, and the association remained robust to adjustment, even when accounting for frailty (OR 1.85, 95% CI 1.06, 3.22, p = 0.031). DISCUSSION: Number of self-reported NCDs was associated with higher odds of social isolation in women but not in men, and the association remained after considering frailty status. CONCLUSIONS: Our observations may be considered by healthcare professionals caring for community-dwelling older adults with multiple NCDs, where enquiring about social isolation as part of a comprehensive assessment may be important.