Information for Health Care Professionals
Health and social service providers have an important role to play in addressing social isolation and loneliness among older adults. This includes being aware of risk factors and transitional live events, such as retirement, the death of family or friends, or changes in living arrangements, which may contribute to the risk of social isolation and loneliness. Other contributing factors can include poverty, lack of transportation, gender and sexual identity, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.
Defining social isolation & loneliness:
These two terms are often found together. However, they do not mean the same thing. Social isolation can be understood as a measurable lack in the number of relationships a person has. Loneliness is more subjective and can be understood as the feeling we get when our social relationships are lacking in terms of quality or quantity compared with what we expect them to be.
Understanding the impacts of social isolation & loneliness:
For older adults, social isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as dementia, depression and functional decline. Research shows that having a reduced number of social contacts may contribute to a poorer quality of life as we age.
According to the United States Centres for Disease Control, loneliness and social isolation are associated with an increased risk of death of 26 per cent and 29 per cent, respectively. This increased mortality risk is similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having an alcohol use disorder, according to a meta-analysis covering decades of studies on the issue.
- Download our two-page backgrounder about social isolation and loneliness among older adults
- Consult the CARED referral criteria to help identify someone who is possibly socially isolated or lonely, and who should be referred to community resources
- Learn more about the risk factors associated with social isolation and loneliness among older adults with the HELPS prompt
Help us improve our resources:
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