Both the number and proportion of older community-dwelling adults who live alone have increased dramatically in the US since 1960. In general, the ability to remain independent and live alone is associated with a high quality of life among older adults. However, there is concern that older adults living alone may be particularly vulnerable to poverty, social isolation, adverse health outcomes, and mortality.
The purpose of this study was to examine the association of living arrangements and changes in living arrangements with survival among a representative sample of US community dwelling men and women aged 70 years and older who had participated in the Longitudinal Study of Aging. We examined whether morbidities and functional status account for observed differences in survival by living arrangement.
Results indicated that women who lived with someone other than a spouse at baseline or who changed from living with a spouse to living with someone other than a spouse were at greater risk of dying than women in other living arrangements, independent of health status or functioning. Among men, survival time was not generally associated with baseline living arrangements.
The conclusion was that older adults who live alone or who change from living with someone to living alone do not have an increased mortality risk. However, living with or changing to living with someone other than a spouse may be associated with increased mortality risk.