Loneliness and its predictors among older adults prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic: Cross-sectional and longitudinal survey findings from participants of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study cohort in the USA

Anna Kucharska-Newton, Kunihiro Matsushita, Yejin Mok, Melissa Minotti, Elizabeth C. Oelsner, Kim Ring, Lynne Wagenknecht, Timothy M. Hughes, Thomas Mosley, Priya Palta, Pamela L. Lutsey, Joe Coresh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives We aimed to ascertain the prevalence of perceived loneliness among older adults following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and to examine factors contributing to the perception of loneliness. Design Cross-sectional and longitudinal data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study cohort. Setting The ARIC Study cohort, a prospective cohort that recruited (1987-1989) participants from four distinct communities in the USA. Participants 2984 ARIC cohort members. Primary and secondary outcomes Perceived loneliness assessed using the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) UCLA three-item Loneliness Scale telephone interviews conducted May-October 2020 and prior to March 2020. Results Of the total 5037 participants alive in 2020, 2984 (56.2%) responded to the UCLA three-item questionnaire (mean age 82.6 (SD 4.6) years, 586 (19.6%) black participants, 1081 (36.2%) men), of which 66 (2.2%) reported having had a COVID-19 infection during the observation period. The proportion of participants reporting feeling lonely was 56.3% (n=1680). Among participants with repeat measures of loneliness (n=516), 35.2% (n=182) reported feeling more lonely following pandemic onset. Self-rated health and emotional resilience were strongly associated with self-perceived loneliness. The burden of COVID-19 infections, concern about the pandemic and decreased self-reported physical activity were greater among black as compared with white participants and among those with an educational attainment of less than high school as compared with high school or more. Conclusion Findings from this study document the increase in perceived loneliness among older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere053542
JournalBMJ open
Volume11
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study has been funded in whole or in part with federal funds from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Health and Human Services, under contract nos. (HHSN268201700001I, HHSN268201700002I, HHSN268201700003I, HHSN268201700005I, HHSN268201700004I). Neurocognitive data (the ARIC Neurocognitive Study) are collected by U01 2U01HL096812, 2U01HL096814, 2U01HL096899, 2U01HL096902, 2U01HL096917 from the NIH (NHLBI, NINDS, NIA and NIDCD), and with previous brain MRI examinations funded by R01-HL70825 from the NHLBI. Funding for this work was provided by the ARIC Neurocognitive Study.

Publisher Copyright:
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Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • dementia
  • epidemiology
  • public health

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