Authors: Kelly Ann Renwick*, Appalachian State University, Claudia Sanmartin, Statistics Canada, Nancy Ross, McGill University, Kaberi Dasgupta, McGill University, Lea Berrang-Ford, University of Leeds
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Canada, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: Social support, living alone, sense of belonging, aging, mortality, linked data
Session Type: Paper
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Decreasing fertility rates, increasing divorce rates, and family fragmentation are key changes in social conditions that have contributed to an increasing number of people living alone and are changing the way older Canadians age. Today, one-person households have become the most common type of household in Canada, the majority of which house older adults. Compared to previous generations, many older adults today are not just living alone, but in a state of ‘being alone’ – living alone with few social resources. Additionally, many have fewer economic resources than those who cohabitate, an added burden in an era marked by trends in retirement income instability and increasing poverty rates among this age group. These challenges are likely to intensify owing to Canada’s rapidly aging population, where the largest increase of older adults occurred between 2011 and 2016, marking the first of the baby boomers reaching retirement age, but also reflecting longer life expectancies and a growing centenarian population. Degenerative conditions and loss of function, common characteristics of aging, may render a lack of social support and a stable income particularly problematic in older adults. In the present study, we used data from the Canadian Community Health Survey linked with the Canadian Vital Statistics Database to better understand the influence of low social support and living alone on mortality risk among older Canadians. Results suggest low social support and a weak sense of belonging are important risk factors among older Canadians and should be part of the dialogue in healthy aging.