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Social Isolation and Loneliness

by Nancy Hightower - November 9, 2022

Social isolation and loneliness are serious problems for older adults because they are more likely to face certain factors such as living alone, grieving the loss of loved ones, and experiencing medical conditions such as chronic illnesses and hearing loss.

Loneliness is feeling alone, no matter how much social contact you get.

Social Isolation is the lack of social contact, which may lead to loneliness in some people.

What are some health risks of social isolation and loneliness?

There are many health risks associated with social isolation and loneliness. The most prominent health risks include:

  1. Social isolation increases a person’s risk of premature death.
  2. Social isolation is associated with an increased risk of dementia, heart disease, and stroke.
  3. Loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression and anxiety.
  4. Loneliness in heart failure patients increases the risk of death, hospitalization, and ER visits.
  5. Other chronic illnesses are worsened by loneliness.

How can you reduce the impact of social isolation and loneliness on yourself or others?

To combat social isolation and loneliness, seek out ways to interact with others. Some suggestions for social interaction are:

  1. Make a phone call to friends or loved ones or ask them to call you.
  2. Learn to use technology that allows you to video chat with friends and family.
  3. Join a group – EHC, church groups, Rotary clubs, etc. Plan to attend regular meetings and group activities.
  4. Attend events or activities held in your community. For example, libraries often offer a wide variety of activities for people of all ages. You can also lookup an event calendar on the internet or in a local newspaper to see what community events are happening.
  5. Volunteer for a local organization. Get some social interaction while also helping those around you.

If you are experiencing social isolation or loneliness, some options are to reach out to your doctor, friends, or family to talk about how you are feeling and what you are experiencing. If you are concerned about someone else, reacch out to them and ask how they are doing and if they are feeling lonely. You can also set up a schedule to regularly check-in and talk to them.

Available resources are listed below.

"The most important things in life are the connections you make with others." - Tom Ford