American Sociological Association

(Where) Is Functional Decline Isolating? Disordered Environments and the Onset of Disability

The onset of disability is believed to undermine social connectedness and raise the risk of social isolation, yet spatial environments are seldom considered in this process. This study examines whether unruly home and neighborhood conditions intensify the association between disability onset and several dimensions of social connectedness. I incorporate longitudinal data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, which contains environmental evaluations conducted by trained observers (N = 1,558). Results from Poisson, ordinal logistic, and linear regression models reveal heterogeneous consequences of disablement: disability onset was associated with reduced core network size, fewer friends, lower likelihood of social interaction, and less overall social connectedness—though mainly when accompanied by higher levels of household disorder. There was limited evidence that neighborhood disorder moderated consequences of disability. Findings point to the importance of the home as an environmental resource and underscore important contextual contingencies in the isolating consequences of disability.


Markus H. Schafer





Starting Page


Ending Page