Adapting the UCLA 3-item loneliness scale for community-based depressive symptoms screening interview among older Chinese: a cross-sectional study

Tianyin Liu, Shiyu Lu, Dara K Y Leung, Lesley C Y Sze, Wai Wai Kwok, Jennifer Y M Tang, Hao Luo, Terry Y S Lum, Gloria H Y Wong
2020 BMJ Open  
ObjectiveLoneliness is a significant and independent risk factor for depression in later life. Particularly in Asian culture, older people may find it less stigmatising to express loneliness than depression. This study aimed to adapt a simple loneliness screen for use in older Chinese, and to ascertain its relevance in detecting depressive symptoms as a community screening tool.Design, setting and participantsThis cross-sectional study was conducted among 1653 older adults aged 60 years or
more » ... ed 60 years or above living in the community in Hong Kong. This was a convenient sample recruited from four local non-governmental organisations providing community eldercare or mental healthcare services. All data was collected by trained social workers through face-to-face interviews.MeasuresLoneliness was measured using an adapted Chinese version of UCLA 3-item Loneliness Scale, depression symptoms were assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), and social support with emotional and instrumental support proxies (number of people who can offer help). Basic demographics including age, gender, education and living arrangement were also recorded.ResultsThe average loneliness score was 3.9±3.0, and it had a moderate correlation with depressive symptoms (r=0.41, p<0.01). A loneliness score of 3 can distinguish those without depression from those with mild or more significant depressive symptoms, defined as a PHQ-9 score of ≥5 (sensitivity 76%, specificity 62%, area under the curve=0.73±0.01). Loneliness explained 18% unique variance of depressive symptoms, adding to age, living arrangement and emotional support as significant predictors.ConclusionA 3-item loneliness scale can reasonably identify older Chinese who are experiencing depressive symptoms as a quick community screening tool. Its wider use may facilitate early detection of depression, especially in cultures with strong mental health stigma.Trial registration numberClinicalTrials.gov NCT03593889
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2020-041921 pmid:33303463 fatcat:xigxviimljhodaifruqjjmauoq