Comparing Measurements of Social Isolation Using Population Surveys from Germany
The term of social isolation hereby refers to the absence of close relationships like – for instance – friends, partners, close relatives or befriended colleagues. Thus, social isolation is seen as a matter of strong and reliable ties that are likely to offer support and provide identity and affiliation. It is also understood as an objective ascription rather than a subjective state of mind. Furthermore, it is seen as an attribute of individual persons rather than one of collectives like families or classes.
Meeting the aims of the session “Measurement of Social Isolation”, the presentation focuses on the differences between several indicators of social isolation with regard to the measured prevalence of social isolation and to the respectively observed correlation between social isolation and both physical and mental health. Therefore, it examines diverse indicators of social isolation that can be created by using information given in large population surveys from Germany, particularly the German Socio-economic Panel (GSOEP). The indicators for social isolation are based on information on social support, ego-centered networks, personal relationships, family ties, and leisure time. The measurements of health include self-assessed health, grip strength as well as international established measures on physical health and depression. The comparison of the various indicators shows pros and cons of different measurement of social isolation and identifies possible sources of over- and underestimations of both the prevalence of social isolation and the link between social isolation and health.