Risk for Loneliness and Social Isolation in Older Adults

  • Published: Friday, March 19, 2021

Older adults are at risk for loneliness and social isolation. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) issued a report stating more than one-third of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. Some might use loneliness and social isolation interchangeably however there are differences. Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact an individual receives. Social isolation is a lack of social connections.

There is evidence that there are health risks associated with adults aged 50 and older who are socially isolated or lonely. Studies have found:

  • Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes.
  • Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
  • Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) were associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
  • Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. If you are having thoughts of suicide contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

University of Missouri Extension Human Development & Family Science Field Specialist, Amber Allen states some ways to help with loneliness or social isolation are:

  • Acknowledge your feelings of loneliness and how it is impacting your life. Additional help can be found through Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), local professional resources, and talking with friends and family.
  • Find a volunteer opportunity, they have shown to ease stress and can help you make friends and connect with others.
  • Practice self-care, self-care looks different for everyone but some ideas for self-care are exercise, proper diet and spending time outdoors. 
  • Schedule time each day to keep in touch with friends and families.

Feelings of loneliness and isolation can have long-term health impacts; however, utilizing the suggested strategies can help improve overall health. 

Writer: Amber Allen

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