, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 11-14
Date: 09 Feb 2010

A survey of nutrition and health status of solitary and non-solitary elders in Taiwan

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To compare the effects of living alone versus living in a group setting on the health, nutrition, personal cognition and general living function of a group of elderly Taiwanese. We also hypothesized that older adults living alone would have poorer indices of function and health than would elderly persons living in a group setting.

Design and participants

We conducted a cross-sectional validation study of 360 men and women older than 65 y. The subjects were 120 solitary (living alone) elders and 240 were non-solitary elders.


Both groups completed a series of questionnaires, including the Nutrition Screening Initiative (NSI), Mini Nutritional Assessment (MNA), Activities of Daily Living (ADLs/Barthel scales), Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs/Lawton scales), Short Portable Mental State Questionnaire (SPMSQ), and Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). The participants were then administered by specially trained field workers. Blood samples were taken and body mass index, and mid-arm and calf circumferences were measured. The results for each group were statistically analyzed. A p-value < 0.05 was considered significant.


The nutritional and health status of the solitary elders, especially males, was poor compared to that of the non-solitary elders. In the solitary elders group, the average scores on the NSI, MNA, ADL, IADL, SPMSQ, and GDS were: 4.6, 23.7, 95.6, 7.6, 0.5, and 13%, respectively.


Solitary elders, especially males, have a significantly increased risk of poor nutrition (MNA< 24), poor health status, impaired cognition, and impaired activities of daily living.