Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Individuals
Social isolation and loneliness represent known risks to brain health and mental wellbeing. Health care providers can help.
Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System1
Roughly 24% of Americans aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated, while 35% of adults aged 45 and older and 43% of adults aged 60 and older report being lonely, according to research from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
“While there are challenges in measuring social isolation and loneliness precisely, there is strong evidence that many older adults are socially isolated or lonely in ways that puts their health at risk,” the study adds.
Researchers noted the health care system is well poised to develop methods for beginning to identify social isolation and loneliness in health care settings. This would support a stepwise approach to care that includes the identification of individuals at risk, the provision of education, and ultimately, intervention, they add.
Pharmacists have been identified in other studies as being ideally suited to identify at-risk individuals and offer recommendations that may address issues such as loneliness and social isolation.
The study’s recommendations include:
- In the case of older adults who are currently socially isolated or lonely (or at an elevated risk for social isolation or loneliness), health care providers should discuss the adverse health outcomes associated with social isolation and loneliness with these older adults and their legally appointed representatives. Providers should make appropriate efforts to connect isolated or lonely older adults with needed social care.
- For older adults who are currently socially isolated or lonely, health care providers should attempt to determine the underlying causes and use evidence-based practices tailored to appropriately address those causes (e.g., hearing loss, mobility limitations).