European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 155–167 | Cite as

Dual sensory loss and social participation in older Europeans

  • Anne Viljanen
  • Timo Törmäkangas
  • Sonja Vestergaard
  • Karen Andersen-Ranberg
Original Investigation


The purpose of the study was to describe the prevalence of hearing difficulties, vision difficulties and dual sensory difficulties in 11 European countries, and to study whether sensory difficulties are associated with social inactivity in older Europeans. This cross-sectional study is based on the 2004 data collection of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe comprising 27,536 men and women aged 50 years and older. Hearing and vision difficulties, as well as participation in seven different social activities were assessed using a structured computer-assisted personal interview. Logistic regression models were used for analyses. Altogether, 5.9 % of the participants reported both hearing and vision difficulties (dual sensory loss), 10.2 % vision difficulties only, and 13.5 % hearing difficulties only. More than two-thirds (68.6 %) of the participants with dual sensory loss were socially inactive compared to half of those who reported no sensory difficulties. The participants who reported dual sensory loss had 2.18 (95 % CI 1.83–2.59) times higher odds for social inactivity compared to persons without hearing or vision difficulties. In a model adjusted for age, gender, mobility, depressive symptoms, cognition, education and wealth the corresponding odds ratio was 1.21 (95 % CI 1.00–1.47). According to our results, sensory difficulties were associated with social inactivity, but the higher likelihood for social inactivity among persons with sensory difficulties was attenuated by other health and socio-economic indicators. Our results suggest that various preventive and rehabilitative actions targeting older persons’ sensory functions may enhance their social activity.


Ageing Activity Dual sensory loss Hearing Social participation Vision 



This paper uses data from SHARE wave 1 release 2.5.0, as of May 24th 2011. The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the 5th Framework Programme (project QLK6-CT-2001-00360 in the thematic programme Quality of Life), through the 6th Framework Programme (projects SHARE-I3, RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE, CIT5-CT-2005-028857, and SHARELIFE, CIT4-CT-2006-028812) and through the 7th Framework Programme (SHARE-PREP, No 211909, SHARE-LEAP, No 227822 and SHARE M4, No 261982). Additional funding from the US National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, R21 AG025169, Y1-AG-4553-01, IAG BSR06-11 and OGHA 04-064) and the German Ministry of Education and Research as well as from various national sources is gratefully acknowledged (see for a full list of funding institutions). This study was financially supported by the Academy of Finland (Grant numbers 251723, 263729 to AV).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne Viljanen
    • 1
  • Timo Törmäkangas
    • 1
  • Sonja Vestergaard
    • 2
  • Karen Andersen-Ranberg
    • 2
  1. 1.Gerontology Research Center and Department of Health SciencesUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland
  2. 2.Institute of Public Health, EpidemiologyUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark

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