Association between eating alone and depressive symptom in elders: a cross-sectional study
Increasing numbers of researchers are finding that loneliness is a significant risk factor for morbidity and mortality, and several variables have been found to be closely related to the experience of loneliness among elders. However, much of the research has focused on the general older population, with no research to date focusing on minority populations. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and the correlates of loneliness among a community-dwelling older Mexican American population. This study used a three-item loneliness scale to determine the prevalence of loneliness. Pearson's correlation and linear regression analyses were used to determine the cross-sectional association between sociodemographic, interpersonal relationship and health variables with the scale. Data used came from the most recent wave (2011) of the Hispanic Established Populations for the Epidemiological Study of the Elderly (H-EPESE). A total of 873 Mexican Americans completed the loneliness scale. The age range was from 80 to 102, with a majority (65%) female. The mean score on the scale was 4.05 (range 3-9), indicating relatively low levels of loneliness. Regression results indicate that depressive symptoms, cognitive status, and living alone were significantly associated with higher loneliness scores. Being married and having a confidante were significantly associated with lower loneliness. Age, number of close relatives and frequency of contact were not associated with loneliness. Findings suggest that among community-dwelling Mexican American older adults, loneliness has multiple determinants. Loneliness is a significant public health topic and clinicians should be aware of the various factors that can affect loneliness.