Is loneliness a predictor of the modern geriatric giants? Analysis from the survey of health, ageing, and retirement in Europe

Maria Gine-Garriga, Javier Jerez-Roig*, Laura Coll-Planas, Dawn A. Skelton, Marco Inzitari, Joanne Booth, Dyego L.B. Souza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
113 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The modern Geriatric Giants have evolved to encompass four new syndromes, of frailty (linked to fatigue and physical inactivity), sarcopenia, anorexia of ageing, and cognitive impairment. In parallel, loneliness has been established as a risk factor for adverse mental and physical health outcomes among older adults. Objective: To analyse loneliness as a predictor of the modern Geriatric Giants in European older adults, using a longitudinal design of nationally representative data. Design: Longitudinal population-based cohort study. Subjects: Data from countries that participated in waves 5 and 6 of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe project. The sizes of the subsamples analysed ranged from 17,742 for physical inactivity to 24,524 for anorexia of ageing. Methods: Loneliness (measured from wave 5) was the independent variable of interest. The dependent variables were incidence of fatigue, physical inactivity, sarcopenia, anorexia of ageing, and cognitive impairment from wave 5 (baseline) to wave 6. Poisson regression models were used for multivariable analysis, obtaining Relative Risk (RR) and 95 % confidence intervals (CI). Results: The prevalence of loneliness ranged from 9.2%–12.4% at wave 5. The 2-year incidence of fatigue was 16 % (95 % CI: 15.5–16.5), physical inactivity 9.8 % (95 % CI: 9.4–10.3), sarcopenia 5.6 % (95 % CI: 5.3–5.9), anorexia of aging 5.4 % (95 % CI: 5.1–5.7), and cognitive impairment 10.3 % (95 % CI: 9.9–10.8). The multivariable analysis showed that loneliness was a predictive factor for fatigue (30 %, CI: 17–45 % higher risk), physical inactivity (24 %, CI: 7–43 % higher risk) and cognitive impairment (26 %, CI: 9–46 % higher risk), adjusted by age, sex, number of chronic diseases, education level, region and depression. Conclusions: Loneliness is an independent risk factor for fatigue, physical inactivity, and cognitive impairment in older adults. The incidence of anorexia of ageing and sarcopenia was not associated with loneliness over the 2-year observation period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-101
Number of pages9
Early online date2 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • Cohort studies
  • Loneliness
  • Modern geriatric giants


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