Search
Search type

Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing

Change in social detachment in older age in England

Contact: Stephen Jivraj 
Email: stephen.jivraj@manchester.ac.uk

Short introduction   

This research strand examines change in social detachment in older age. For more information see Chapter 3 of ‘The Dynamics of Ageing: Evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing 2002-10 (Wave 5)'

Social detachment can be described as disengagement from participation in a range of societal activities. These activities can involve formal participation in organised groups, visits to communal leisure facilities, and informal contact with family and friends. As such, social detachment can be considered a multidimensional construct. Markers of social detachment have been collected at each wave of ELSA, with small changes in coverage from wave to wave. This provides an opportunity to examine, within the older population, both the dynamics and the drivers of social detachment.

The ELSA data allow us to consider four broad domains of social detachment: civic participation, leisure activities, cultural engagement and social networks. This research strand provides both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses of these domains of social detachment and an overall composite measure for waves 1 to 5. Cross-sectional analysis is conducted to show the correlates of social detachment and longitudinal analysis is conducted to show what drives movement into social detachment as the ELSA sample ages.

The cross-sectional analysis in this chapter shows that:

  • The prevalence of social detachment was stable in the population aged 52 and above during the period 2002–03 to 2010–11
  • In 2010–11, almost one-in-five older adults were detached from three or more domains of social detachment.

The longitudinal analysis in this chapter shows that:

  • Although overall levels of social detachment generally remained constant over time, more than half of older people moved into and out of social detachment on at least one domain during the period 2002–03 to 2010–11
  • Wealth is the most consistent driver of movement into social detachment across domains. Poorer older adults are more likely to move into social detachment than those who are richer, with the exception of the social networks domain
  • Becoming separated or divorced from a partner, developing a limiting long-standing illness or no longer having access to transport makes it more likely for an individual to become detached from three or more domains of social detachment

Current research outputs from this strand  

Jivraj, S., Nazroo, J. and Barnes, M. (2012) ‘Change in social detachment in older age in England’, in J. Banks, J. Nazroo and A. Steptoe (eds) The Dynamics of Ageing: Evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing 2002-10 (Wave 5), London: Institute for Fiscal Studies.