Social Indicators Research

, Volume 140, Issue 3, pp 1173–1194 | Cite as

Accumulation of Disadvantages: Prevalence and Categories of Old-Age Social Exclusion in Belgium

  • Sofie Van Regenmortel
  • Liesbeth De Donder
  • An-Sofie Smetcoren
  • Deborah Lambotte
  • Nico De Witte
  • Dominique Verté
Original Research


This paper focuses on the prevalence and measurement of old-age social exclusion. Currently there is limited knowledge of the prevalence of old-age social exclusion in Belgium. Although studies have already shown that older adults can experience exclusion in more than one dimension, the multidimensional nature of social exclusion is often lost when constructing a scale. Consequently, this paper’s aim is twofold. First, it examines the prevalence of different dimensions of old-age social exclusion in Flanders and Brussels and seeks to demonstrate the influence of applying different measurement thresholds. Second, this study develops an old-age social exclusion measure that preserves its multidimensionality. Descriptive and Latent Class Analysis were performed on the Belgian Ageing Studies data (2008–2014), a survey among home-dwelling older adults (60 + years) (N = 20,275; 80 municipalities). Findings revealed that older adults are mainly digitally excluded and excluded from the neighbourhood, civic participation, and social relations. More than 60% older adults experience exclusion in two or more dimensions. The use of different thresholds, however, leads to different interpretations concerning the prevalence of social exclusion. Results of the Latent Class Analysis revealed four categories of old-age exclusion: those at “low risk”, “the non-participating financially excluded”, “the environmentally excluded” and the “severely excluded”. The discussion emphasizes the importance of preserving a multidimensional perspective when studying social exclusion. When addressing old-age exclusion, policy should be sensitive to the diverse categories and realize that one-size-fits-all policies and interventions are no solution.


Multiple social exclusion Old-age social exclusion Social exclusion measurement Latent Class Analysis 



We would like to acknowledge the four anonymous reviewers for the valuable suggestions on this article. We acknowledge the provincial and local governments of the participating municipalities for their support and cooperation throughout the research. We thank the older volunteers for their commitment throughout the research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Psychology and Educational SciencesVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Faculty of Education, Health and Social WorkUniversity College GhentGhentBelgium

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