“Human beings are social by nature, and high-quality social relationships are vital for health and well-being. Like many other social determinants of health, however, social isolation (an objective lack of social contact with others) and loneliness (the subjective feeling of being isolated) are significant yet underappreciated public health risks. Social isolation and loneliness are associated with poor physical and mental health outcomes, including higher rates of mortality, depression, and cognitive decline. Recent research documents the high prevalence of social isolation and loneliness among older adults. For example, data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study found that 24 percent of
community-dwelling older adults are considered socially isolated, and a 2018 survey by the AARP Foundation found that more than one-third (35 percent) of adults aged 45 and older are lonely. Additionally, a 2018 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 22 percent of adults in the United States say they ‘often or always feel lonely, feel that they lack companionship, feel left out, or feel isolated from others.’
“This report presents a comprehensive review of the impacts of social isolation and loneliness on mortality and morbidity, the risk factors for social isolation and loneliness, the mechanisms by which social isolation and loneliness impact health, the factors that affect those mechanisms, and the ways in which researchers measure social isolation and loneliness and their resultant impacts on health.
“Furthermore, the committee discusses the role of the health care system in addressing these issues, the ways in which we can better educate and train our health care workforce, and which interventions (particularly for the clinical setting) show the most promise. Finally, the committee discusses general principles of dissemination and implementation that will be important for translating research into practice, especially as the evidence base for effective interventions continues to flourish.”
Click here to download the full report: Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults