Oral health-related quality of life and loneliness among older adults
18 July 2016
Patrick Rouxel, Anja Heilmann, Panayotes Demakakos, Jun Aida, Georgios Tsakos, Richard G. Watt
European Journal of Ageing
Data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), a national representative study of older adults aged 50+ living in England, were analysed. We investigated the cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between oral health functioning (such as eating, speaking, smiling) and loneliness.
After taking into account demographic (age, gender and cohabiting status), socio-economic (education and wealth), health (limiting long-standing illness, depressive symptoms and smoking status) and psychosocial factors (social participation and social support), we found a strong association between poor oral health and loneliness.
The risk of becoming lonely was 1.6 times higher among older adults whose oral health functioning became worse.
Future waves of ELSA with repeated measures of oral health and loneliness will provide opportunities to fully explore the nature of the relationship between oral health and loneliness, and test the potential mechanism of the association. The key message of this study is that maintaining good oral health in older age may be a protective factor against loneliness. Researchers in gerontology should consider the impact of poor oral health amongst older adults on their quality of life and well-being.
Oral health is an important aspect of health amongst older adults that is often neglected in gerontology research.