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Social connectedness contributes to life satisfaction, mental and emotional well-being, and physical health

O’Rourke H & Sidani S. Definition, determinants, and outcomes of social connectedness for older adults: A scoping review Journal of Gerontological Nursing . 2017; 43(7): 43-52.

Review question

•    What are the critical features of social connectedness for older adults and what are their potential determinants and outcomes? 

Background

      Social connectedness is a feeling of interpersonal connection, different from objective social network features such as isolation or interpersonal contact, or the network function of social support.

      Without social connectedness, vulnerable older adults can experience reduced quality of their relationships with family, friends, other residents in assisted living or long-term care.

      This systematic review collected evidence to map and clarify the critical features and indicators that define social connectedness for older adults and describe its potential determinants and outcomes.

How the review was done

      A detailed search of a number of electronic databases was conducted for studies published from the date of the establishment of the databases to February 2015. Studies that focused on older adults and social connectedness were included in the review.

      A total of 1,180 studies were identified in the searches and 26 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility. 

      The authors received no specific funding for this work.

What the researchers found

      Study authors defined social connectedness as a subjective evaluation of the extent to which one has meaningful, close, and constructive relationships with others. The indicators of social connectedness include: (a) caring about others and feeling cared about by others, and (b) feeling of belonging to a group or community.

      There are many potential determinants of social connectedness, with many of them relating to social aspects of life: social networks, group memberships, social participation, and social support.

      Direct outcomes of social connectedness include life satisfaction, mental and emotional well-being, physical health, suicidal behaviour, new activity participation, and forgiveness.

Conclusion

      This scoping review mapped the definitions, determinants, and outcomes of social connectedness. The findings identified the distinct features of the concept, distinguishing it from its determinants and outcomes.

      Further research is needed to identify innovative strategies to promote social connectedness and decrease loneliness among subgroups of older adults.



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Glossary

Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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