Background: Social isolation/loneliness are negative feelings that can occur in any individual due to a lack of social contact or perceived dissatisfaction with relationships. When this occurs among older adults, higher morbidity and mortality ensues. This review identifies the prevalence, risk factors, and interventions for social isolation and loneliness among older adults in Malaysia.
Methods: PubMed, SCOPUS, MyCite, and Google Scholar databases were systematically searched until 2022 following the PRISMA guideline. Quantitative and qualitative studies in Malay and English languages with information regarding the prevalence, risk factors, and interventions surrounding social isolation and loneliness among older adults in Malaysia were included.
Results: An initial 442 studies were screened, and 19 studies were included for review. Prevalence for social isolation/loneliness ranged between 9.2% to 95.5%. Risk factors for loneliness were categorized into social factors (i.e., poor relationships with family members, poor social support, abandonment, stigma, death of loved ones), health-related factors (i.e., depression, chronic illness, frailty, physical limitations), and demographic factors (i.e., marital status, living condition, unemployment). Only one intervention study was found focusing on spiritual reminiscence therapy, showing positive outcomes. Four qualitative studies found that engaging in hobbies, having social support, having good internal and external coping strategies as well as being socially active help alleviate loneliness.
Conclusions: Malaysian elders feel socially isolated and lonely, but there is a lack of intervention for loneliness studies published in Malaysia. This review asserts future research on interventions to identify potential strategies to overcome loneliness among older adults.
Tengku Amatullah Madeehah Tengku Mohd, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, Malaysia
Syara Shazanna Zulkifli, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Malaysia
Khadijah Hasanah Abang Abdullah, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, Malaysia
Wan Yuen Choo, University of Malaya, Malaysia