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Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
There are limited empirical research studies examining loneliness and social isolation among Black older adults. Studying loneliness and social isolation among older Black populations is important given the projected growth of the Black older adult population in coming years, Black older adults disproportionately experience life situations associated with greater loneliness and social isolation compared to White older adults, Black older adults are significantly less likely to use health and social services compared to older Whites, and Black Americans are more likely to live in environments that lack economic and social resources, and have severe hazards in terms of the built environment. Given the limited knowledge in this area and significance of this topic, the purpose of my dissertation is to determine risk factors for loneliness and social isolation among Black older adults and whether risk factors for loneliness and social isolation among Black older adults vary by sex, age, and environmental context. I utilize the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to address my study aims. The HRS is a nationally representative longitudinal panel survey of adults 50 and older living in the United States of America. Loneliness was operationalized using the Hughes 3-item loneliness scale. Social isolation was operationalized using a social network index. Risk factors for loneliness and social isolation included demographic factors (e.g., age, education), health factors (e.g., self-rated health, depressive symptoms), and environmental factors (e.g., neighborhood social cohesion, neighborhood physical disorder). In addition to main effect regression models, I tested the moderating effects of sex (women and men), age, and environmental context (living in an urban, suburban, or rural environment) to determine if these factors moderated the relationships between the risk factors and loneliness/social isolation. A variety of demographic, health, and environmental factors were associated with loneliness and social isolation among Black older adults. Risk factors for loneliness were younger age, greater years of education, lower total household income, worse self-rated health, greater depressive symptoms, less neighborhood social cohesion, and greater social isolation. Risk factors for social isolation were lower total household income, worse self-rated health, living in an urban community (compared to living in a suburban community), and greater loneliness. Additionally, several of these risk factors varied according to sex, age, and environmental context. This is one of the first studies to examine risk factors for loneliness and social isolation among a nationally representative sample of Black older adults. I found that there was little overlap in risk factors for loneliness and social isolation among Black older adults, further indicating these are distinct conditions. Study implications include the need to raise awareness of loneliness and social isolation among Black older adults and to further explore and intervene upon risk factors for these conditions. Finally, evidence that several risk factors vary by sex, age, and environmental context underscores the heterogeneity with the older Black population. Strengths, limitations, and future research directions are discussed.
Chair and Committee
Vanessa Fabbre, Darrell Hudson, Sojung Park, Vetta Thompson,
Chatters Taylor, Harry O., "Risk Factors for Loneliness and Social Isolation among Black Older Adults" (2019). Arts & Sciences Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1890.
Available for download on Tuesday, August 15, 2119