The national interRAI-HC (International Residential Assessment Instrument-Home Care) is used to assess all New Zealand community-dwelling older adults who are being considered for access to residential care or publicly funded community services.
During the assessement period there were responses from 71,859 eligible participants. Loneliness was self-assessed with a binary measure of whether participants ‘reported feelings of loneliness’.
The data provided a useful comparison of the subjective measure of loneliness with the objective measures of living arrangement and ethnicity.
Given European (including Other) made up 89% of the eligible participants, the profile of all the participants is very similar to that for European*.
Over half of the European participants lived alone. Given European (including Other) made up 89% of the eligible participants, the profile of all the participants was very similar to that for European*.
The prevalence of loneliness for Māori older adults was similar to European*. Unlike European*, most Māori participants lived with others. As a consequence, slightly higher proportion of participants who were lonely lived with others than lonely lived alone.
Asian older adults had the highest loneliness rate of any ethnicity, even though most lived with others. Surprisingly, more than two-thirds of participants who were lonely lived with others.
Pasifika had the lowest loneliness rate. This is consistent with the Stats NZ General Social Surveys. Surprisingly, more than three quarters of participants who were lonely lived with others.
A limitation of the research was the limited data sets for non-European older adults, even though the dataset reflected the general ethnic population distribution of older adults. A further limitation of the research was the binary variable used to self-assess perceived loneliness. The generalisability of the results was limited because no potential confounding factors (i.e. depression, cognition, age, sex and other markers of health status) that could influence the variables and subsequent results had been included in the analysis.
The national interRAI-HC data for 2017 was released to the Herald on Sunday on 8 April 2018 (Nicholas Jones, ‘Lonely New Zealand: A third of elderly spend their days alone’). According to the report, of the 37,000 seniors assessed in 2017, 22% reported feelings of loneliness (as compared to the 21% in the research paper). Waitemata, MidCentral and Whanganui DHBs had the highest proportion of lonely seniors, at 28%.