Loneliness tied to pain-fatigue-depression cluster in older adults

23 May 2022
Loneliness tied to pain-fatigue-depression cluster in older adults

High levels of loneliness among elderly adults increase the likelihood of reporting pain, fatigue, depression, and the cluster of all three symptoms, reports a recent study.

Drawing from the Health and Retirement Study, researchers enrolled 5,974 older adults (aged ≥50 years, 60.1 percent women) with at least two available assessments for loneliness and the three-symptom cluster. Pain and fatigue were assessed through surveys, while the 8-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale was used to evaluate depression.

The mean loneliness index, as quantified by the UCLA Loneliness Scale, was 1.3. Meanwhile, 17.7 percent, 17.2 percent, and 12.5 percent of participants met the thresholds for pain, fatigue, and depression, respectively.

Generalized estimating equation analysis revealed that older adults who reported being lonely were more than twice as likely to experience the cluster of pain, fatigue, and depression (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 2.15, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.74–2.67).

A similar interaction was reported for the individual components of the cluster: pain (adjusted OR, 1.22, 95 percent CI, 1.08–1.37), fatigue (adjusted OR, 1.47, 95 percent CI, 1.32–1.65), and depression (adjusted OR, 2.33, 95 percent CI, 2.02–2.68).

“This research both supports the routine clinical assessment of loneliness as a high-impact, potentially modifiable risk factor and continued interest in the development of interventions, which address loneliness in older adults,” the researchers said.

“Such approaches may ultimately reduce the impact of loneliness on multiple outcomes, including the cluster of pain, fatigue, and depression,” they added.

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