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Risk of Social Isolation among Older Patients: What Factors Affect the Availability of Family ...

Full title: Risk of Social Isolation among Older Patients: What Factors Affect the Availability of Family, Friends, and Neighbors upon Hospitalization?

Jung-Hwa Ha | Department of Social Welfare and Center for Social Sciences, Seoul National University

Gavin W. Hougham | Research, Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus

David O. Meltzerc | Department of Medicine, University of Chicago


Objectives: To examine the prevalence of social isolation among older patients admitted to a

hospital, and the effects of sociodemographic and health-related factors on the availability of their family, friends, and neighbor networks.

Methods: Analyses are based on interviews with a sample of 2,449 older patients admitted to an urban academic medical center in the United States. A nine-item version of Lubben’s Social Network Scale was developed and used to assess the availability of different social networks.

Results: About 47% of the sample was at risk of social isolation. The oldest old and non-White older adults showed greater risk. The availability of family networks was associated with age, sex, marital status, and prior hospitalization; friend networks with age, race, education, prior hospitalization, and functional limitations; neighbor networks with race, education, marital status, and functional limitations.

Conclusions: The risk of social isolation and the availability of social support for ospitalized older adults varies by both patient and network characteristics. Health professionals should attend to this risk and the factors associated with such risk.

Clinical Implications: By assessing the availability of various types and frequency of support

among older patients, health professionals can better identify those who may need additional support after discharge. Such information should be used in discharge planning to help prevent unnecessary complications and potential readmission.


LSNS; older patients; social isolation; social network

Clinical Gerontologist, 42:1, 60-69, DOI: 10.1080/07317115.2018.1447524

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