Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major Professor

Roy E. Beauchene

Committee Members

Dr. Jean Skinner, Dr. Jo Lynn Cunningham, & Dr. Jane Savage


Characterizing older persons as being lonely and socially isolated has been widely suggested, yet it has not been substantially supported. Furthermore, loneliness and social isolation have been identified as contributing to dietary inadequacies among elderly individuals. The purposes of this study were to evaluate the dietary adequacy of elderly individuals in Rutherford County, Tennessee, and to determine whether differences could be attributed to loneliness, social isolation, physi­cal health, functional status, and participation in Title III congregate meal programs .

Sixty-one independently living elderly individuals over the age of 60 years participated in the study. Three-day food records were used to collect dietary data, and comparisons of nutrient intake were made to the 1980 Recommended Dietary Allowances. An evaluation of nutrient intake revealed that energy and calcium were most likely to be under­ consumed by all subjects regardless of race or gender. Individuals who participated in group meal programs had lower intakes of vitamin A than those who did not, but the level was in an acceptable range of the Rec­ ommended Dietary Allowances. Physical health was shown to be related to intakes of vitamin A and ascorbic acid, indicating that individuals in poor physical health are more likely to consume inadequate diets and vice versa. Loneliness was not found to be higher in older individuals but did appear to be related to the number of social contacts reported. Preliminary evidence suggested that loneliness was related to dietary adequacy based on mean adequacy ratios of the total diet and on the intakes of protein and food energy.

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