Catalyst Awardee

Project Description

Towards Personalization: Identifying Life-History Patterns of Loneliness as the Basis for Effective Early Interventions

Wei Ming Angelique Chan, DPhil, Abhijit Visaria, DPhil, MA, and Nur Adlina Maulod, DPhil, MS | Duke-NUS Medical School; and Ursula M. Staudinger, PhD, MA | Columbia University
Competition Sponsor: Ministry of Health and National Research Foundation of Singapore
Awardee Year: 2020

Loneliness is a public epidemic, particularly among older adults (aged 60 years and older). Our proposal is to identify different types of loneliness as a basis for effective interventions. Previous research has shown that loneliness increases the probability of death over and above physical illness and disability. In recent work, our team has shown that being lonely reduces life expectancy by 4 years in the older Singapore population. At present, 53% of older Singaporeans (aged 60+) report being sometimes or mostly lonely using the UCLA 3-item loneliness scale, particularly those living with children only. By alleviating loneliness we can improve healthy longevity. We hypothesise that in order to develop successful interventions for loneliness we must first understand clusters of lonely individuals with particular characteristics. We use a mixed-method design to identify patterns of loneliness and qualitative narratives using a life course approach. We challenge the traditional assumption that older persons living with children in Asian countries are well taken care of and have a higher quality of life compared to older adults in other types of living arrangements. I. We will conduct cluster analyses for the subgroup sometimes/mostly lonely, by gender, ethnicity, education, income, housing type, marital status, personal mastery, social network size, and quality of social network. II. Conduct semi-structured interviews asking participants to define what loneliness means to them using a life-history calendar method. III. Photovoice methods include using images to capture what triggers loneliness in individuals everyday situations Findings from the study will inform the conceptualization of a complex phenomenon: loneliness into key typologies of experience. Next steps are to: (i) cluster older persons at risk of loneliness, (ii) design and develop programmes and intervention with stakeholders and community partners and (iii) match at-risk persons to these programmes and community intervention.

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View this project poster, first displayed at the 2021 Global Innovator Summit.


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