Background: Decreasing and preventing isolation and social loneliness among the elderly are important fields for policymaking and action commitment in social health. Evidence shows that the nature and spectrum of an individual’s social network including the quality and quantity of social relations and contact frequency can affect the old people’s health considerably. Social participation leads to a decrease in mortality and depression and improves people’s cognitive function. Since few interventions on assessment of the effect of social participation on old people’s loneliness have been done, this study was conducted to determine the impact of the educational program of social participation on the feeling of loneliness.
Methods: This is a quasi-experimental study based on convenience sampling method, on 239 elderly people aged ≥60 years living in rural regions of Baiza. The intervention was held for the intervention group during five weeks through five 60-80 minute educational sessions. The data were collected by CCHS-SP and UCLA Loneliness Feeling Questionnaires before and after the intervention in the experiment and control groups. The data were analyzed usingSPSS (version19).
Results: The significance level was assumed 0.05 in statistical analysis. After one month of educational intervention program, the mean score of social participation increased in the intervention group from 6.17±3.86 to 17.98±3.84 after the intervention. The findings showed a remarkable improvement in loneliness feeling scores of the mentioned group form 62.24±.7.53 to 28.86±6.88 after the intervention (p <.001). The studied cases in the control group experienced no significant changes in the two mentioned variables.
Conclusion: This study revealed a reduction in the feeling of the elderly in rural areas by predicting, improving, and modifying behaviors related to social participation and forming self-help groups in rural communities.
In recent decades, prevention from loneliness and social isolation among the elderly has been an important issue in social health promotion (1). While there is no experience that loneliness is unique to old age, it is common among older adults, with 12% to 46% reporting at least some level of loneliness (2). About one third or even half of the elderly suffer from loneliness and social isolation (3). An investigation in Spain indicated that 23.1 percent of the elderly often suffered loneliness. (4) However, Khichadi reported that this amount was between 16 and 35 in this country (5). In Iran, the rate of loneliness has been reported between 11% and 70% in various studies. (6, 7) Loneliness and social isolation affect the quality of life remarkably, so that it is comparable with the impacts of cigarette, obesity, inactivity, and hypertension. (8) Immune deficiency, infections, cognitive disorders, mental problems such as depression and dementia, high levels of disabling chronic diseases, lack of physical activity, and the possibility of death are more probable to happen among those people feeling lonely remarkably (9.10.11). These consequences are clearly so important in making economic problems. Recently, numerous investigations have been done with different plans among the elderly to reduce loneliness and social isolation. However, the low quality of most of these studies and the high variety of the studied population in the mentioned studies make the generalization of their findings difficult since they are conducted in communities with different social, cultural and economic contexts (12, 13). One way to improve the health of people, especially to reduce the loneliness in the elderly, is social participation. Social participation in itself is both a theoretical and a practical concept that has been shown to be related to health in many studies. Many people over the age of 65 are in a state of social isolation and this does not allow them to have a close and intimate relationship with others. This may be due to the negative view of society and the belief in the imminent death of the elderly, which hinders planning to improve their quality of life, while various studies indicate that having social contact and public personality with is related to life satisfaction in old age. (14). Nevertheless, recent findings emphasize the importance of social interactions and relations for improving and promoting mental health and also preventing social isolation and their consequences among the elderly. (13). Loneliness and social isolation among the elderly in rural regions is so important. The offspring leave home or move due to marriage or for occupational reasons, low economic status and literacy in these regions, limited access to health services, and social welfare, which makes the issue of elderly Loneliness and social isolation so critical (15.16). Lack of enough experimental evidence and the limitations of the conducted studies highlight the necessity of conducting more research regarding the programs which help decrease social loneliness isolation among the elderly in rural regions. Therefore, the goal of the present study was to determine the impact of Social Participation Educational Program on the loneliness of in old people in rural areas.