Social isolation, social support and loneliness as independent concepts, and their relationship with health-related quality of life among older women

Rosanne Freak-Poli, Joanne Ryan, Thach Tran, Alice Owen, Joanna McHugh Power, Michael Berk, Nigel Stocks, David Gonzalez-Chica, Judy A. Lowthian, Jane Fisher, Julie Byles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objectives: To assess whether social isolation, social support, and loneliness are independently associated with health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Method: Retrospective analysis including 10,517 women aged 70–75 years from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH). Social isolation, social support (Duke Social Support Index), and loneliness (single item) were investigated for their association with standardised HRQoL (physical [PCS] and mental [MCS] components of the SF-36® questionnaire). Analyses were adjusted for sociodemographic variables and number of medical conditions. Results: Only 3% reported being socially isolated, having low social support and being lonely, and 34% reported being not socially isolated, high social support and not being lonely. Each construct was independently associated with HRQoL, with loneliness having the strongest inverse association (PCS: isolation −0.98, low support −2.01, loneliness −2.03; MCS: isolation −1.97, low support −4.79, loneliness −10.20; p-value < 0.001 for each). Women who were not isolated or lonely and with high social support had the greatest HRQoL (compared to isolated, low social support and lonely; MCS: 17 to 18 points higher, PCS: 5 to 8 points higher). Other combinations of social isolation, social support and loneliness varied in their associations with HRQoL. Conclusion: Ageing populations face the challenge of supporting older people to maintain longer, healthy, meaningful and community-dwelling lives. Among older women, social isolation, low social support and loneliness are distinct, partially overlapping yet interconnected concepts that coexist and are each adversely associated with HRQoL. Findings should be replicated in other cohorts to ensure generalisability across other age groups and men.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalAging & Mental Health
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • 80 and over
  • age factors
  • aged
  • ageing
  • Geriatrics
  • interpersonal relations
  • loneliness
  • mental health
  • older adult
  • quality of life
  • social connection
  • social interaction
  • social isolation
  • social support
  • socioeconomic factors
  • socioeconomic position

Cite this