Gender Differences in Social Isolation and Social Support among Rural Residents

Publication Date: August 1st, 2018
Publication Type(s): Policy Brief
Topic(s): ,
Author(s): Henning-Smith C, Ecklund A, Moscovice I, Kozhimannil K

Social isolation is an urgent public health problem, and there are demonstrated differences in social isolation by gender. However, little published research describes social isolation in rural areas specifically. This policy brief uses nationally-representative data to identify gender differences in social isolation and social support among older rural residents and provides ways to reduce social isolation and improve associated health outcomes in rural communities.

Key Findings:

  • Social isolation is an important health risk factor that may differ among men and women, because of differences in life expectancy, community participation, or household dynamics.
  •  Lack of social contact is prevalent among older rural residents—more than one-fourth of men and nearly one-fifth of women reported that they socialized with others less than once a month.
  •  In some ways, women were more socially connected—older rural women were more likely than men to go to church or another place of worship on a weekly basis (53% vs. 43%).
  • Men were less likely than women to say that they can open up to family (77% vs. 90%) or friends (63% vs. 74%).
  • Women were more likely than men to report feeling left out some of the time or often (36% vs. 27%).

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