Category Archives: Mental Health

Loneliness and social isolation – focus is there, solutions are emerging

fighting social isolation

Aging in Place Technology Watch and GreatCall have published a new white paper about initiatives to fight social isolation — a few of the points are excerpted here:

What has changed in the past two years?  First, the research.  Once the correlation between social isolation and poorer health outcomes was made, the volume of research spiked. From its pre-correlation measurement in the 1996 UCLA Loneliness Scale, a number of other surveys have been released that include correlation with health care costs, economic status, and lifestyle preferences. In late 2017, research from AARP’s Public Policy Institute concluded that socially isolated older adults cost the U.S. health system an additional $6.7 billion in health-related spending. Newer research from the National Institute on Aging is focusing on the connections between loneliness, long viewed as a predictor of cognitive decline, and other health risks, including:  high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.

Social isolation – is this a worsening 21st century phenomenon? Is social isolation more of a problem today than in the past. And, what is the prognosis for the future? The recent AARP report zeroed in on the key predictors of loneliness, sometimes referred to as “perceived social isolation.” Living situations and marital status may provide a clue to societal changes that result in social isolation and loneliness. In 2018, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) released its survey profile of older Americans (age 65+). It showed that while only 14 percent of the 65+ population lives alone, almost half (45 percent) of women aged 75+ live by themselves. According to Pew Research, among those 65 and older, the divorce rate has tripled since 1990.

A top predictor of loneliness is size and quality of one’s social network.  To assess these elements and their connection to loneliness, the AARP respondents were asked for both the number of people in their lives who have been supportive in the past year and the number with whom they can discuss matters of personal importance. From the study: “As expected, as one’s social network increases, loneliness decreases. Also as expected, as physical isolation decreases (the factor which included items such as disability status, number of hours spent alone and household size), so does loneliness.”

Health limitations can exacerbate social isolation. While loneliness and social isolation are emerging as public health issues, less has been published about the health issues that may lead to social isolation: mobility limitations, depression, cognitive impairment and hearing loss.  In another study, older adults with mobility impairments were more likely to report being isolated from friends. These surveys underscore the fact that elderly people are the most likely to experience social isolation and its related health effects. According to a UK study, those who provide care — including family caregivers such as children or spouses — are also known to experience loneliness in their roles and would benefit from greater societal appreciation and possible interventions such as respite care.

Untreated hearing loss contributes to social isolation.  According to government statistics, among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than 30% have ever used them. Denial and unreimbursed cost ($2400/ear) are factors, and delay in acquiring them can worsen the isolation.  Hearing aids today also offer features that include fall detection, smartphone integration, and AI capabilities.  Moving forward, Medicare Advantage plans are beginning to contribute to a portion of the cost. Audiologists play a role in managing user expectations and training an individual to adjust to the change from little or no sound to the noisy environment of stores, restaurants, office buildings and streets.

Click here to read the full white paper.

“Connection Is a Core Human Need, But We Are Terrible at It | No person is an island, and we need healthy relationships to thrive” – Medium

connectionIllustration: Hélène Desplechin/Getty Images

by Brianna Weist

“In his book Lost Connections, Johann Hari talks about his decades of work in the fields of trauma and mental health and why he believes that the root of almost everything we suffer through is a severed connection we never figured out how to repair.

“At one point, Hari talks about an obesity clinic where patients who were overweight to the point of medical crisis were put on a supervised liquid diet in an effort to try to save their lives. The treatment worked, and many of the patients walked out of the clinic hundreds of pounds lighter and with a new lease on life—at first. What happened later was a side effect no doctor predicted. Some of the patients gained back all the weight and then some. Others endured psychotic breaks and one died by suicide.

“After looking into why many of these patients had such adverse emotional reactions, the doctors discovered something important:” Continue reading this article at Medium; click here.

“‘Disconnected from other folks,’ seniors grapple with a loneliness epidemic” – The Boston Globe

older dancer

by Robert Weisman

WOBURN — Scanning recent police reports from the Massachusetts communities under her jurisdiction, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan was alarmed to spot what she called a ‘tragic spike’ in suicides.

“Fifty-two county residents had taken their lives in the first half of this year, a toll up almost two-thirds from last year. She knew that plenty of young people battle anxiety but was surprised to learn the residents’ average age was 46. A quarter were over 60.

“‘The numbers are dramatically higher than we’ve seen in the past,’ Ryan said. Although it’s impossible to pinpoint one cause, ‘loneliness is definitely a factor,’ she said. ‘“Many older people are feeling disconnected from other folks in their communities.’”

Click here to continue reading this article at The Boston Globe.

 

“Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think: Here’s how to make the most of it.” – The Atlantic

“The data are shockingly clear that for most people, in most fields, professional decline starts earlier than almost anyone thinks.”

 

 

Luci Gutiérrez

by Arthur C. Brooks

“‘It’s not true that no one needs you anymore.’

“These words came from an elderly woman sitting behind me on a late-night flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. The plane was dark and quiet. A man I assumed to be her husband murmured almost inaudibly in response, something to the effect of ‘I wish I was dead.’

“Again, the woman: ‘Oh, stop saying that.’

“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but couldn’t help it. I listened with morbid fascination, forming an image of the man in my head as they talked. I imagined someone who had worked hard all his life in relative obscurity, someone with unfulfilled dreams—perhaps of the degree he never attained, the career he never pursued, the company he never started.

“At the end of the flight, as the lights switched on, I finally got a look at the desolate man. I was shocked. I recognized him—he was, and still is, world-famous. Then in his mid‑80s, he was beloved as a hero for his courage, patriotism, and accomplishments many decades ago.”

professional decline2

This a “long read” — but maybe just right for a Sunday (or any other) morning. Click here to read this article at The Atlantic.

 

Older Veteran Behavioral Health Resource Inventory

older veterans

This inventory lists resources for health and social service professionals interested in enhancing their outreach and support for older Veterans and other older adults who have or are at risk for behavioral health conditions. It covers resources on topics including post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide prevention, long term services and supports, and more.

This entry has been updated to include the 2019 edition of the Inventory.

“Are We Fighting a War on Homelessness? Or a War on the Homeless?” – Column in The New York Times

homelessness

by Ginia Bellafante

“Last fall, a special investigator for the United Nations presented a report to the General Assembly on the global housing crisis, pointing out that a quarter of the world’s urban population now live in ‘informal settlements’ or encampments, increasingly in the most affluent countries. The fact-finding mission took the investigator to cities like Mumbai, Belgrade and Mexico City, where she found rodent infestations, children playing on garbage heaps ‘as if they were trampolines’ and people living in shacks or in damp abandoned buildings full of exposed wires.

“At the invitation of academics and advocates, she also went to to San Francisco, where the median home price is $1.6 million.

“There she witnessed equally deplorable conditions. Crucial to the report’s assessment was the finding that the city’s resistance to providing help and basic necessities in the encampments there qualified as ‘cruel and inhuman treatment,’ which was in line with violations of international standards of human rights.”

Read this column at The New York Times in its entirety, click here.

“Always connected with thousands Of ‘friends’ — yet feeling all alone” – California HealthLine

Sad man in park with couples in background

by Sharon Jayson

“AUSTIN, Texas — Connor Wilton moved here for the music scene. The 24-year-old singer-guitarist “knew zero people in Austin” and felt pretty lonely at first.

While this capital city is one of the nation’s buzziest places and ranks at the top of many ‘best’ lists, Wilton wasn’t feeling it. He lived near the University of Texas at Austin but wasn’t a student; he said walking through ‘the social megaplex that’s UT-Austin’ was intimidating, with its almost 52,000 students all seemingly having fun.

“‘You definitely feel like you’re on the outside, and it’s hard to penetrate that bubble,’ Wilton said.

Read this article at California Healthline in its entirety — click here.

OPINION: “Mindfulness is not a fad. Try it.” – The Boston Globe

mindfulness

by Andy Puddicombe

Be present, be patient, be gentle, be kind . . . and everything else will take care of itself’ were the words of my teacher as I left behind my life as a Buddhist monk, some 15 years ago, to set out on a very different kind of adventure, one that would eventually lead to me getting married, having children, starting the Headspace meditation app, and moving to America.

“People often ask which I prefer: the simplicity of a monastic life, or the chaos of a working, family life? But life is not like that. Outside of extraordinary or unfortunate circumstances, our happiness is not typically defined by where we live, what we do, or what we possess.

“But instead of looking inward — recognizing that our experience of life is defined by our perception — we chase or hold on to things that we think make us happy, while running away from anything we believe makes us unhappy. This creates a never-ending cycle of hope and fear, leaving us exhausted, stressed, and no closer to the peace of mind we seek. So it’s worth considering how to step out of that cycle.”

Continue reading this opinion piece, click here.

“1 in 4 older adults report feelings of isolation” – STAT: Morning Rounds

lonliness and health

One-quarter of adults between the ages of 50 and 80 feel isolated from others, and 1 in 3 report a lack of companionship, according to a new national poll from the University of Michigan. Previous research has found that feeling socially isolated can negatively impact health, including increased stress and an elevated risk of dementia or suicide. In the survey of nearly 2,000 adults, more than a quarter of those who reported feeling isolated also reported being in fair or poor health. The poll’s authors say encouraging and supporting meaningful social connections and more frequent interactions is one way to combat isolation and subsequent health effects.

 

“Suicide prevention: Research on successful interventions” – Journalist’s Resource

suicide

by Chloe Reichel

“As suicide rates rise in the United States, researchers have been working to identify approaches to curb the trend.

“This roundup looks at recent publications in the field of suicide prevention research.

“The findings are organized by risk group, an approach endorsed by Cheryl King, a professor in the University of Michigan Medical School’s department of psychiatry. Behind this structure is the understanding that different populations exist in different contexts with respect to access to and provision of health care.

“As an example, King compared youth and veterans: youth require family permission for health care, and veterans generally have the option of seeking health care from an entirely separate system than the civilian population. This means ‘there are differences in the interventions, in the approaches we take,’ she explained in a phone call with Journalist’s Resource.

“The research below includes a sampling of successful strategies for suicide prevention for certain risk groups including men, the military, the incarcerated, youth and the elderly. ”

Click here to continue reading this article at Journalist’s Resource.