Prevalence of Loneliness and Associated Factors among Older Adults in South Africa

  •  Nancy Phaswana-Mafuya    
  •  Karl Peltzer    


OBJECTIVE: Loneliness can be detrimental to health. The aim of this study is to estimate the prevalence of loneliness as well as its risk factors in older adults in South Africa.

MATERIALS & METHODS: This cross-sectional population based study investigated factors associated with loneliness in a nationally representative sample (n=3624) of older South Africans who took part in the “Study of Global Ageing and Adults Health (SAGE)” wave 1 in 2008. The outcome variable was self-reported prevalence of loneliness and the exposure variables were socio-demographic characteristics and health variables.

RESULTS: The overall prevalence of self-reported loneliness was 9.9%. Prevalence of loneliness was 10.2% for females and 9.5% for males, lowest among those married (7.5%), and highest among the 70+ years olds (12.5%). Individuals with highest level of education had the lowest prevalence of loneliness (5.9%). Indians or Asians were significantly more likely to experience loneliness than other population groups (Adjusted Odds Ratio=AOR: 3.20; 95% Confidence Interval=CI: 1.31, 7.80). Married or cohabiting individuals were significantly less likely to experience loneliness than unmarried or non-cohabiting ones, respectively (AOR: 0.55; 95% CI: 0.37, 0.81). In multivariable logistic regression, individuals with good subjective health were less likely to experience loneliness than those with poor health (AOR: 0.40, 95% CI: 0.22, 0.73). Similarly, individuals with good cognitive functioning were significantly less likely to experience loneliness than those with poor cognitive functioning (AOR: 0.55, 95% CI: 0.32, 0.97).

CONCLUSION: The study found that the prevalence of loneliness among older adults in South Africa is significant. Preventative interventions that address the identified factors, including poor health status and low cognitive functioning, associated with loneliness need to be developed.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.