eISSN: 2449-8580
ISSN: 1734-3402
Family Medicine & Primary Care Review
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vol. 21
Original paper

Impact of loneliness in the elderly in health care: a cross-sectional study in an urban region of Portugal

Catarina Rocha-Vieira
Gustavo Oliveira
Luciana Couto
3, 4
Paulo Santos
3, 4

US F Camelias, ACES Gaia, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
US F Garcia d’Orta, ACES Porto Ocidental, Portugal
MEDCIDS – Department of Medicine of Community, Information and Health Decision Sciences, Faculty of Medicine of Porto, Portugal
CINTESIS – Center for Health Technology and Services Research, University of Porto, Portugal
Family Medicine & Primary Care Review 2019; 21(2): 138–143
Online publish date: 2019/06/18
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Loneliness is a subjective, complex and multi-dimensional feeling, having a significant impact on mental health. It is related to intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

The aim of this study is to evaluate the impact of loneliness in elderly patients in medical care.

Material and methods
We conducted a cross-sectional study of a sample of 150 participants, aged ≥ 65 years, interviewed by a structured questionnaire, including the University of California Los Angeles Loneliness Scale (UCLA -LS ), for assessment of loneliness. Other variables included socio-demographic characterisation and family dysfunction. Total medication prescription and polymedication were used to assess the medical care assistance profile. Logistic regression was used for multivariate analysis.

The prevalence of moderate to severe loneliness was 36% (95% CI: 28.3–44.2%), higher with ageing, without differences between gender. The greatest impact in loneliness occurred in the presence of family dysfunction, income dissatisfaction, living alone and ageing. Being married/in a non-marital partnership and maintaining professional activity appeared as protective factors. The perception of loneliness was related with polymedication, with higher levels of loneliness matching with higher polymedication.

Loneliness is common in the geriatric population and interferes significantly with health care; thus, it can be considered a determinant of health. Incorporating this factor into clinical decision reasoning is crucial for better health care.


geriatrics, loneliness, social isolation, polypharmacy, poverty, family conflict

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