Out in the cold: Why are the oldest people the most excluded?

January 04, 2017

People over the age of 85 are significantly more likely to suffer social exclusion than those in the 65 to 84-year-old bracket, according to new research.

In a study* of more than 10,000 people over the age of 65, social policy researchers found the so-called 'oldest old' - classed as those 85 and over - have more trouble accessing services such as healthcare and food shops, with 16 per cent reporting 'significant' problems, compared with only four per cent of their younger counterparts. And women were found to be less likely to be able to access services than men.

The study, led by social policy researchers at the University of Lincoln with colleagues from Sheffield Hallam University, found that while only 17 per cent of respondents aged 65 to 84 said they do not go out socially, the number increased to nearly half of those in the oldest old bracket. Women in that age group were less likely to go out with friends, but surprisingly, rural respondents were more likely to go out than urban residents.

The older respondents were also less likely to go out socially even when cohabiting, suggesting that those in that age group are at greater risk of social exclusion regardless of whether they live alone, researchers said. Similarly, 19 per cent in the 85+ bracket reported it being 'very difficult' to visit family when they need to, compared with nine per cent of those in the younger age bracket.

The Office for National Statistics estimates there will be 3.2 million people aged 85 or over in the United Kingdom by 2039.

Dr Wesley Key, from the University of Lincoln's School of Social & Political Sciences, said: "As people in western nations are living longer, it is now necessary to differentiate the 'oldest old' from what could be termed the 'younger old', or those aged 65 to 84. Our analysis found that those people are at greater risk of experiencing social exclusion compared with the 65-84 age group.

"We examined whether this risk was down to declining health among this age group, yet the analysis shows that those aged 85 and above are still at greater risk of social exclusion even if we take poor health into account.

"We know that a loss of social contact can damage physical and mental health, and furthermore, older people are more likely to need care from external providers if they live alone, something which is more likely among the oldest old. This places more pressure on statutory health and social care services.

"Measures must be taken to help them continue living in their own homes for as long as possible, whilst maintaining adequate social relations and being able to access services. As first steps, awareness and availability of technology such as Skype, telecare and online banking/shopping should be improved."

Researchers said that third-sector provision such as Telephone Befriending Services and Dial-a-Ride community transport schemes have attempted to alleviate loneliness and isolation, but geographical variations can place it beyond the reach of some people. It also warned that voluntary organisations could not be responsible for ensuring the UK's ageing society does not exclude older members of the population.

Dr Key added: "The government has a responsibility to ensure that the most vulnerable citizens are able to participate fully in social life within, and beyond, their home neighbourhoods. Even if the moral argument is not deemed sufficiently powerful, as life expectancy increases and the age profile of western nations pushes upward, the needs of future cohorts of the oldest old will become impossible to ignore."

The findings have been published in the journal Social Policy and Society.
-end-


University of Lincoln

Related Mental Health Articles from Brightsurf:

Mental health strained by disaster
A new study found that suicide rates increase during all types of disasters -- including severe storms, floods, hurricanes and ice storms -- with the largest overall increase occurring two years after a disaster.

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

World Mental Health Day -- CACTUS releases report of largest researcher mental health survey
On the occasion of 'World Mental Health Day' 2020, CACTUS, a global scientific communications company, has released a global survey on mental health, wellbeing and fulfilment in academia.

Mental illness, mental health care use among police officers
A survey study of Texas police officers examines how common mental illness and mental health care use are in a large urban department.

COVID-19 outbreak and mental health
The use of online platforms to guide effective consumption of information, facilitate social support and continue mental health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic is discussed in this Viewpoint.

COVID-19 may have consequences for mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be adversely affecting mental health among hospitalised patients, the healthcare professionals treating them and the general population.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental ill health 'substantial health concern' among police, finds international study
Mental health issues among police officers are a 'substantial health concern,' with around 1 in 4 potentially drinking at hazardous levels and around 1 in 7 meeting the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder and depression, finds a pooled data analysis of the available international evidence, published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Examining health insurance nondiscrimination policies with mental health among gender minority individuals
A large private health insurance database was used to examine the association between between health insurance nondiscrimination policies and mental health outcomes for gender minority individuals.

Mental health care for adolescents
Researchers examined changes over time in the kinds of mental health problems for which adolescents in the United States received care and where they got that care in this survey study with findings that should be interpreted within the context of several limitations including self-reported information.

Read More: Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.