Differences in Social Connectedness and Perceived Isolation Among Rural and Urban Adults with Disabilities

Background: Social isolation has been compared to smoking in terms of risk to public health. Some groups are at particularly high risk for these feelings, including people with disabilities and rural residents. Few studies have considered the potentially compounding effects of disability status and rural residency.

Objective: To evaluate how reported satisfaction with social participation and perceived isolation relate to the health of rural and urban people with disabilities, and to consider whether number of disabilities, living arrangement, and employment status were associated with differences in reported satisfaction with social participation and perceived isolation.

Methods: This observational, cross-sectional analysis utilized data from working-age adults with disabilities (n = 1246) collected by the Collaborative on Health Reform and Independent Living (CHRIL).

Results: There were significant associations between reported health and measures of satisfaction with social participation and perceived isolation (all ps < .001). Increased number of disability issues, not being employed, and living with at least one other person were associated with reduced satisfaction with social participation (ps < .01), and number of disability issues and not being employed were associated with increased perceived isolation (ps < .01). Urban residents reported feeling more isolated (ps < .05) and there were multiple predictor x geographic residency (rural versus urban) interactions.

Conclusion: These results underscore the importance of considering geography as a factor in understanding satisfaction with social participation and perceived isolation and how these factors relate to health in people with disabilities.

*Data collected is from the 2018 CHRIL National Survey on Health Reform and Disability. The abstract was copied from the Repke, M.A. & Ipsen, C. (2019). Differences in social connectedness and perceived isolation among rural and urban adults with disabilities. Disability and Health Journal, 1936-6574, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dhjo.2019.100829.