Methods: The sample consisted of 14,707 non-disabled adults between the ages of 50 to 65 at baseline from 14 countries from the Survey of Health, Aging, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Structural equation modeling using Stata version 15 was performed to explore the effects of loneliness on work-disability longitudinally over a two period between 2013 and 2015. We hypothesize that loneliness predicts work-disability and that the relationship is mediated by depression and chronic health conditions. We further explore whether higher education moderates the association between loneliness and work-disability.
Results: Preliminary results indicate that loneliness is significantly predictive of future work-disability when controlling for several possible confounders, including negative health behaviours and country-fixed effects. We further observe mediation effects statistically significant at the 5 percent level. Depression and chronic health impairments partially mediate approximately 30 percent and 26 percent of the direct effect of loneliness on work-disability, respectively. Additionally, we find that higher education status significantly moderates the association between loneliness and work-disability status.
Conclusions and Implications: Loneliness is a significant longitudinal predictor of work-disability status and its effect is partially mediated by depression and chronic health conditions. Programs and policies designed to reduce work-disability may benefit from incorporating evidence-based interventions to reduce loneliness. These interventions may be best targeted at lonely adults with lower-education levels who appear particularly at risk for future work-disability.