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Loneliness, Depression, Social Support, and Quality of Life in Older Chronically Ill Appalachians

This study's purpose was to describe loneliness and to examine the relationships between loneliness, depression, social support, and QOL in chronically ill, older Appalachians. In-person interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of 60 older, chronically ill, community-dwelling, and rural adults. Those with dementia or active grief were excluded. The UCLA Loneliness Scale (Russell, Peplau, & Cutrona, 1985), Geriatric Depression Scale (Shiekh & Yesavage, 1986), Katz ADL scale (Katz, Down, & Cash, 1970), MOS Social Support Scale (Sherbourne & Stewart, 1991), and a visual analog scale for Quality of Life (Spitzer et al., 1981) scale were used. Diagnoses were obtained through chart reviews. SPSS was used for data analyses. The majority of the 65% female sample (M age = 75 years) were married and impoverished. Participants’ number of chronic illnesses averaged more than 3. Over 88% of participants reported at least 1 area of functional impairment. Loneliness was prevalent with UCLA loneliness scores indicating moderate to high loneliness, ranging from 39 to 62 (possible scores were 20−80). Higher loneliness scores correlated with depression, lower Qol, and lower social support, particularly lower emotional support. This study provides evidence that loneliness is a significant problem for older chronically ill Appalachian adults and that it may be related to low emotional support. Further, it provides evidence that this population may be significantly lonely and may not self-identify as lonely. Screening for loneliness and designing interventions that target the emotional aspects of loneliness could be important in this population.