Social Support, Isolation, Loneliness, and Health Among Older Adults in the PRISM Randomized Controlled Trial

Sara J. Czaja, Jerad H. Moxley, Wendy A. Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Social isolation and loneliness are serious public health issues given the association with negative physical, mental; and cognitive health outcomes and increased risk for mortality. Due to changes in life circumstances many aging adults are socially isolated and experience loneliness. We examined the relationships among four correlated but distinct constructs: social network size, social support, social isolation, and loneliness as they relate to indices of health and wellbeing among diverse subpopulations of older adults. Guided by WHO’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) we also examined factors that predict loneliness and social isolation. Methods: Analyses of baseline data from sample of older adults who participated in an intervention trial that examined the beneficial effects of a software system designed to support access to resources and information, and social connectivity. Participants included 300 individuals aged 65–98, who lived alone, were primarily of lower socio-economic status and ethnically diverse. Participants completed a demographics questionnaire, self-report measures of health, depression, social network size, social support, and loneliness. Results: Loneliness was strongly associated with depression and self-ratings of health. In turn, greater social isolation and less social support were associated with greater loneliness. Social isolation was associated with depression and lower self-ratings of health. The association between social isolation and health was mediated by loneliness. Individuals in the older cohorts (80+) reported less social support. With respect to loneliness, having a smaller social network, more functional limitations, and limitations in engaging meaningful activities was associated with higher levels of loneliness and greater social isolation. Conclusion: The findings underscore the importance of social connectively to wellbeing for older adults and suggest that those in the older cohorts, who have a small social network, and with greater physical and functional impairments may be particularly vulnerable to being socially isolated and lonely. The findings provide guidance for future interventions. In this regard, we discuss how Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) may be used to promote social connectivity and engagement. Strategies to make the usability and availability of these applications for aging adults are highlighted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number728658
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - Oct 5 2021


  • health
  • loneliness
  • older adults
  • social Isolation
  • technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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