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Living alone and mortality among older people in Västerbotten County in Sweden: a survey and register-based longitudinal study

Journal article
Authors Nawi Ng
Ailiana Santosa
Lars Weinehall
Gunnar Malmberg
Published in BMC Geriatrics
Volume 20
Issue 1
ISSN 1471-2318
Publication year 2020
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Language en
Keywords Deaths, Family network, Living alone, Living arrangement, Older people, Social support.
Subject categories Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology


Living alone is increasingly common and has been depicted as an important cause of mortality. We examined the association between living alone and mortality risks among older men and women in northern Sweden, by linking two unique longitudinal datasets.We used the Linnaeus database, which links several population registers on socioeconomic and health. This register-based study included 22,226 men and 23,390 women aged 50 and 60 years in Västerbotten County who had participated in the Västerbotten Intervention Program (VIP) during 1990-2006, with a total of 445,823 person-years of observation. We conducted Cox-proportional hazard regression to assess the risk of living alone on the mortality that was observed between 1990 and 2015, controlling for socio-demographic factors, chronic disease risk factors and access to social capital.Older men and women who lived alone with no children at home were at a significantly higher risk of death compared to married/cohabiting couples with children at home (with an adjusted hazard ratio of 1.38, 95% CI of 1.26-1.50 in men and 1.27, 95% CI of 1.13-1.42 in women). Living alone was an even stronger factor than the well-established chronic disease risk factors and a lack of access to social capital.A significant association between living alone and mortality among the older adult population in Sweden was observed. Providing good social support for older people is important in preventing the negative health impact of living alone.

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