Study Finds Economic Insecurity Among Older Adults in Japan

A Hiroshima University study found 43.6% of older Japanese adults participating in social activities experience economic insecurity, linked to increased loneliness and decreased well-being. The study surveyed 1,351 adults aged 65 or older in Hiroshima City, Japan, between July and December 2022.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Study Finds Economic Insecurity Among Older Adults in Japan

Study Finds Economic Insecurity Among Older Adults in Japan

A recent study conducted by researchers at Hiroshima University has found that 43.6% of older adults in Japan who participate in social activities experience economic insecurity, which is associated with increased loneliness and decreased well-being. The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE on March 28, surveyed 1,351 adults aged 65 or older in Hiroshima City, Japan, between July and December 2022.

Why this matters: This study's findings have significant implications for Japan's healthcare system, as economic insecurity among older adults can lead to delayed medical help and increased frailty. Addressing this issue could improve the overall quality of life for Japan's aging population and reduce the burden on the healthcare system.

The results showed that economic insecurity was not associated with physical conditions, subjective symptoms of dementia, or social conditions, but was linked to increased loneliness and decreased well-being. The sense of economic insecurity was lower among older adults aged 85 and older, and higher among those who felt psychologically lonely and had a lower subjective sense of well-being.

"For low-cost social activities to function as a place for preventing frailty and suicide, it is necessary to investigate the actual state of the participants' economic insecurity and discuss how to provide support for effective social activities," said co-authors Yuriko Inoue and Hisae Nakatani. "Given that nearly half of the older adults participating in social activities felt economic insecurity, receiving support to alleviate this issue through social activities could contribute to improving their mental health," added Inoue.

Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world, but older adults who struggle economically may refrain from seeking medical help or using long-term care insurance, increasing the occurrence of frailty and its progression. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare encourages older adults to participate in social activities to prevent frailty.

The research team, which includes Yuriko Inoue, Hisae Nakatani, Xuxin Peng from Hiroshima University's Graduate School of Biomedical and Health Sciences, and Ichie Ono from the Yasuda Women's University's Department of Nursing, suggests that background factors related to loneliness and subjective well-being should be analyzed, including the number of interactions and the level of intimacy involved in social support. Further investigation through longitudinal and intervention studies involving factors based on objective indicators is needed to validate the association between economic insecurity and social activities.

The research is funded by France Bed Medical Home Care Research Subsidy Public Incorporated Foundation and Hiroshima University Research Fellowship. The study highlights the need for healthcare providers who promote community-based social participation to consider support tailored to older adults' age and psychological and economic insecurities, as receiving support to ease economic insecurity through social activities could contribute to improving their quality of life, including their mental health.

Key Takeaways

  • 43.6% of older Japanese adults in social activities experience economic insecurity.
  • Economic insecurity is linked to increased loneliness and decreased well-being.
  • Support to alleviate economic insecurity through social activities can improve mental health.
  • Healthcare providers should consider age, psychological, and economic insecurities in support.
  • Economic insecurity can lead to delayed medical help and increased frailty in older adults.