The impact of social isolation on the health status and health-related quality of life of older people



To investigate for socially isolated older people, and older people at risk of social isolation: (1) health status and health-related quality of life (HRQL); (2) the relationship between social isolation and health status/HRQL; (3) the relationship between two alternative measures of health status/HRQL.


Older people at risk of social isolation (n = 393) completed the EQ-5D and the SF-12. Multiple regression analyses were performed to examine the relationship between levels of social isolation and health status/HRQL, controlling for demographic/clinical characteristics. The agreement between EQ-5D and SF-6D (SF-12) scores was explored using descriptive psychometric techniques.


Health status and health state values were much lower than UK general population age-matched norms. After controlling for depression, physical co-morbidities, age, gender, living alone status, employment and accommodation, social isolation was significantly associated, to a degree that was clinically relevant, with EQ-5D DSI, SF-6D (SF-12) and SF-12 MCS scores. The potential for ceiling effects on the EQ-5D with this population was identified.


This work highlights the burden that social isolation may have on the health and well-being of older people. The potential HRQL gains from addressing social isolation may be considerable, with those at risk of social isolation also a key target group.

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We would like to acknowledge the input and collaboration of Devon County Council and the community mentoring teams across the study area, and the support and enthusiasm of the study participants.

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Correspondence to Annie Hawton.

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Hawton, A., Green, C., Dickens, A.P. et al. The impact of social isolation on the health status and health-related quality of life of older people. Qual Life Res 20, 57–67 (2011).

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  • Aged
  • Frail elderly
  • Social isolation
  • Health status
  • Quality of life