Written Paper

Regional variation in social isolation amongst older Australians  [2016]

Beer, A. Faulkner, D. Law, J. Lewin, G. et al.

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Regional studies globally has a strong focus on understanding the causes of variation in the economic performance and well-being of regions and this emphasis acknowledges that the strength of the local or regional economy plays a determinant role in shaping quality of life. Regional research has been less active in considering spatial variation in other factors that are critical to individual and societal well-being. For example, the regional studies community has been absent from the debate on the social determinants of health and how these influences vary spatially. This paper considers the results of a cross-sectional survey of Australians aged 65 years and over that focused on social connections and well-being. It examines regional variations in the incidence of social isolation within the older population. It finds that while the incidence of self-reported social isolation amongst older persons is broadly consistent with earlier studies, it demonstrates a spatial patterning that is unexpected. The paper considers community-building activities in addressing the impacts of social isolation, including the role of urban design, and suggests that there is a need to supplement the national overview presented there through more detailed studies focused on individual localities.