Is Physical Activity Associated With Loneliness or Social Isolation in Older Adults? Results of a Longitudinal Analysis Using the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing

in Journal of Aging and Physical Activity
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Social relationships are central to the health and well-being of older adults. Evidence exploring the association of physical activity (PA) with social isolation and loneliness is limited. This study uses a path analysis to investigate the longitudinal association between loneliness and social isolation with PA using the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing. Higher levels of social isolation measured using the Berkman–Syme Social Network Index were directly and indirectly associated with lower levels of walking, moderate PA, and vigorous PA over 6 years. Additionally, higher levels of walking were associated with lower levels of loneliness measured using a modified version of the University of California, Los Angeles loneliness scale over a 3-year period. Future interventions should target individuals who are more socially isolated and explore the effects of different types of PA on loneliness over time.

McMullan, Bunting, Blackburn, Wilson, and Tully are with the Institute of Mental Health Sciences, School of Health Sciences, Ulster University, Newtownabbey, United Kingdom. Burns, Cunningham, and O’Sullivan are with the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, Belfast, UK and Dublin, Ireland. Smith is with the Cambridge Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University, Compass House, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

McMullan (Mcmullan-i2@ulster.ac.uk) is corresponding author.
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