Older adults who have osteoarthritis are more likely to suffer from a condition that health professionals call “social isolation.” These people who have arthritis often also have health issues, which can also increase their risk of being socially isolated.
Other health issues that are often experienced alongside arthritis may include depression, anxiety, being afraid to move around, and physical inactivity due to pain. This could ultimately lead to these people not being able to take care of themselves.
All of these issues can lead to older adults becoming lonely, but a new study now shows that it may actually be a link between being socially isolated and osteoarthritis. This form of arthritis can cause joint pain and can limit the ability to get around.
It is estimated that 30 percent of adults aged 65 and older have arthritis to some degree, especially in the leg joints. Despite these high numbers, there has been little research done on the connection between arthritis and social isolation. This is why a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society is gaining popularity among health care professionals. The research team for this study set out to learn whether there is an association between arthritis and social isolation, and to identify the disease’s contribution to social isolation.
Information from the European Project on OsteoArthritis (EPOSA) study was used to look at 1,967 adults with an average age of 73. All participants lived in six European countries including Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.
Participants in the study were given questionnaires that logged how often and how many times they were connected socially with friends and family members. It was also measured how often the participants volunteered or participated in social activities. At the start of the study, it was noted that half the participants were women, and almost 30 percent had arthritis.
Participants Who Were Not Socially Isolated
The study showed that those who were not socially isolated tended to be younger and had higher education and incomes. They were also more likely to be physically active, had less physical pain, and were in better all-around health.
Of the 1,585 participants who weren’t considered socially isolated at the beginning of the study, 13 percent had become socially isolated 12 to 18 months later. They reported that their osteoarthritis and overall health had worsened and were in more pain. They had also become less physically active, had depression, and had problems with thinking and making decisions.
Researchers concluded the study saying that it shows how osteoarthritis can increase the risk of social isolation. Because social isolation can worsen health, researchers also suggest that having cognitive issues as well as having slower walking times is associated with an increased risk of becoming socially isolated.
As it has been shown that social isolation can be detrimental to health, researchers suggest that those who have arthritis could benefit from physical activity and participating in senior activities. They hope these findings will encourage healthcare providers to refer seniors to centers where activities are specifically designed for people with arthritis.