Studies: Younger HIV patients more isolated, stressed than older patients; life expectancy improving. Hence our social outings Initiative! Re-connection those Isolated with the WORLD!
Even as more advanced antiviral therapies are improving the length and quality of life of people with HIV, those on the younger end of the age spectrum are dealing with more stress and isolation than their older counterparts, according to findings by researchers at Case Western Reserve University that were PUBLISHED in October 2011 in the journal AIDS Care.
The researchers say they believe the study, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, is the first of its kind designed to quantitatively assess the relationship between age, stress and social isolation in adults living with HIV. They hope to use the baseline data as the launching point for a long-term study of 100 HIV-positive people.
“If we could find a sponsor, I would love to do this for five to 10 years,” said lead author Allison Webel, assistant professor at CWRU’s Francis Bolton School of Nursing. Citing a diverse demographic that includes black and heterosexual female patients, and fewer substance abusers, Webel said, “I think we have a really great population to study here.” The findings are providing a new perspective on previous research that suggested elderly people with HIV have increasingly limited and fragile relationships with their friends. Members of the under-50 crowd, however, may not know anyone else their age dealing with a chronic illness, and so they may suffer more from stigma, Webel said.
The prior studies, she said, “have neglected to look at younger people.” “We tend to think of them as having a tighter-knit friendship circle,” Webel said. “It turns out that wasn’t the case. We found that the older folks had more friendship [ties] than the younger folks.” Webel and her colleagues studied 102 men and women recruited between November 2011 and June 2012 from local HIV-related clinics and service organizations, and a registry of individuals with the illness. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 64, with the groups equally divided into younger than 50 and over 50, an age cutoff that is frequently used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in HIV/AIDS statistics.
The majority of the study participants were black. The average age was 48 years old. Most participants also were single, low-income and living with HIV for nearly 14 years. Men and women were equally represented. Using a heart monitor, exercise and sleep diaries, and surveys to measure perceived and physiologic stress, they found: *Those under 50 felt more disconnected from family and friends, and experience more stigma, than older people. They may also feel blamed by others for their illness and avoid people because they are sick. *The over-50 group had more-developed social networks that served as good sources of support.
*Participants reported feeling 30 to 40 percent more stress than non HIV-infected populations. Women with HIV were especially susceptible to stress. Older people reported less stress than their younger counterparts. While the area has “phenomenal” health care, Webel said, more can always be do.ne “to help [patients] link up with a truly supportive network that may impact their physiological health, too.” That extra knowledge will be even more crucial in the future, given that people are living longer with HIV