Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) The Effect of Objective and Subjective Social Isolation on Self-Perceptions of Aging (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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141P (WITHDRAWN) The Effect of Objective and Subjective Social Isolation on Self-Perceptions of Aging

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Rita Hu, MSW, Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Background and Purpose: Self-perceptions of aging (SPA) is a critical dimension of ageism along with age stereotypes and age-based discrimination. According to Stereotype Embodiment Theory, self perception plays a critical role in explaining how a social and cultural concept gets under the skin. Internalizing age-related stereotypes can lead to more negative self-perceptions of aging such as feeling useless. SPA among older adults affects physical, mental, cognitive, and socioemotional well-beings. Research suggests that SPA is stable as people age. However, major changes in life such as retirement, widowhood, health declines impact SPA significantly. The current COVID-19 pandemic exposes older adults to not only higher risks of health declines, but also objective and subjective social isolation due to social distancing. The present study will explore the impact of objective social isolation and subjective loneliness's impact on SPA using nationally-representative sample.

Methods: Data are from 2008 - 2018 Health and Retirement Study (HRS)'s Psychosocial Leave Behind Survey to which a probability sample of older adults (50 and older) in the US has responded (N = 19,041). Objective social isolation was measured by averaging three six-point scale asking the frequency of meeting up with children, family and friends. Subjective loneliness was accessed by an eleven-item Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale. SPA was assessed by averaging an eight-item scale, which is the combination of the Attitude Toward Owe Aging scale and the Satisfaction with Aging Scale. The control variables are sociodemographic variables including age, gender, race, years of education, employment status, marital status; health variables including self-rated health, number of functional disabilities, and number of chronic conditions; and SPA at baseline. Step-wise linear regressions were conducted separately for objective and subjective social isolation.

Results: Older adults who are more socially connected with children, family and friends tend to have more positive SPA four years later after controlling for sociodemographic and health variables (b = 0.30 SE = 0.06 p <0.01). However, the positive relationship between SPA and objective social contact became statistically insignificant after controlling for loneliness (b = 0.009 SE = 0.06 p = 0.32). Older adults who are more lonely were more likely to have negative SPA after controlling for sociodemographic and health variables (b = -0.087 SE = 0.006 p <0.01). This negative relationship remained statistically significant after controlling for objective social contact as baseline (b = -0.085 SE = 0.006 p <0.01).

Conclusion and Implications: Both objective and subjective social isolation significantly impact SPA. The results of this study lead to further explore subjective loneliness as a mediator and the dynamic between subjective and objective social isolation. To prevent ageism from getting under the skin, social workers need to pay more attention to facilitating healthy social network construction among older adults.