The purpose of the study was to describe the prevalence of hearing difficulties, vision difficulties and dual sensory difficulties in 11 European countries, and to study whether sensory difficulties are associated with social inactivity in older Europeans. This cross-sectional study is based on the 2004 data collection of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe comprising 27,536 men and women aged 50 years and older. Hearing and vision difficulties, as well as participation in seven different social activities were assessed using a structured computer-assisted personal interview. Logistic regression models were used for analyses. Altogether, 5.9 % of the participants reported both hearing and vision difficulties (dual sensory loss), 10.2 % vision difficulties only, and 13.5 % hearing difficulties only. More than two-thirds (68.6 %) of the participants with dual sensory loss were socially inactive compared to half of those who reported no sensory difficulties. The participants who reported dual sensory loss had 2.18 (95 % CI 1.83–2.59) times higher odds for social inactivity compared to persons without hearing or vision difficulties. In a model adjusted for age, gender, mobility, depressive symptoms, cognition, education and wealth the corresponding odds ratio was 1.21 (95 % CI 1.00–1.47). According to our results, sensory difficulties were associated with social inactivity, but the higher likelihood for social inactivity among persons with sensory difficulties was attenuated by other health and socio-economic indicators. Our results suggest that various preventive and rehabilitative actions targeting older persons’ sensory functions may enhance their social activity.
- Dual sensory loss
- Social participation