Health risk appraisal in older people 2: the implications for clinicians and commissioners of social isolation risk in older people

Iliffe, Steve; Kharicha, Kalpa; Harari, Danielle; Swift, Cameron; Gillmann, Gerhard; Stuck, Andreas E (2007). Health risk appraisal in older people 2: the implications for clinicians and commissioners of social isolation risk in older people. British journal of general practice, 57(537), pp. 277-82. London: Royal College of General Practitioners

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BACKGROUND: Social isolation is associated with poorer health, and is seen by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the major issues facing the industrialised world. AIM: To explore the significance of social isolation in the older population for GPs and for service commissioners. DESIGN OF STUDY: Secondary analysis of baseline data from a randomised controlled trial of health risk appraisal. SETTING: A total of 2641 community-dwelling, non-disabled people aged 65 years and over in suburban London. METHOD: Demographic details, social network and risk for social isolation based on the 6-item Lubben Social Network Scale, measures of depressed mood, memory problems, numbers of chronic conditions, medication use, functional ability, self-reported use of medical services. RESULTS: More than 15% of the older age group were at risk of social isolation, and this risk increased with advancing age. In bivariate analyses risk of social isolation was associated with older age, education up to 16 years only, depressed mood and impaired memory, perceived fair or poor health, perceived difficulty with both basic and instrumental activities of daily living, diminishing functional ability, and fear of falling. Despite poorer health status, those at risk of social isolation did not appear to make greater use of medical services, nor were they at greater risk of hospital admission. Half of those who scored as at risk of social isolation lived with others. Multivariate analysis showed significant independent associations between risk of social isolation and depressed mood and living alone, and weak associations with male sex, impaired memory and perceived poor health. CONCLUSION: The risk of social isolation is elevated in older men, older persons who live alone, persons with mood or cognitive problems, but is not associated with greater use of services. These findings would not support population screening for individuals at risk of social isolation with a view to averting service use by timely intervention. Awareness of social isolation should trigger further assessment, and consideration of interventions to alleviate social isolation, treat depression or ameliorate cognitive impairment.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of General Internal Medicine (DAIM) > Geriatric Clinic

UniBE Contributor:

Gillmann, Gerhard and Stuck, Andreas






Royal College of General Practitioners




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:53

Last Modified:

04 May 2014 23:15

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Web of Science ID:


URI: (FactScience: 35704)

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