Loneliness is a subjective and unpleasant emotional state characterized by feelings of isolation, disconnection, and perceived rejection from social groups.

It is possible to live alone without experiencing loneliness, and conversely, one can feel lonely even when surrounded by others. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly heightened feelings of loneliness among many older adults. This is particularly noteworthy because chronic loneliness can have detrimental effects on memory, mental and physical health, and overall lifespan. This is further exacerbated by feelings of loneliness.

Here are some key impacts of loneliness:

  • Loneliness independently increases the risk of all-cause mortality by approximately 25%, regardless of the presence of depression.
  • Loneliness raises the risk of various health issues such as hypertension, myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, diabetes, high cholesterol, cognitive decline, and systemic inflammation.
  • Loneliness independently increases the risk of dementia by 40% to 50%, even when accounting for social isolation and genetic risk factors.
  • Loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Among heart failure patients, loneliness is linked to a 68% increased risk of hospitalization and a 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.

Elderly are at particular risk for loneliness. It is usually a combination of numerous factors which include:

  • Age of 75 years or older
  • Female Gender
  • Lives alone or is homebound
  • Death of family and friends
  • Immigrant
  • Unemployed, retired or disabled
  • Declining physical or mental health
  • Caregiver
  • Limited Education
  • Low Income
  • Certain personality traits (introvert, negative attitude, lack of resilience)

If you or your loved one is lonely, consider simple plans which you can follow to help increase social connections.

Interventions to reduce loneliness include:

  • Enhance social support
  • Increase opportunities for social interaction
  • Improve social skills
  • Address low self esteem
  • Address social anxiety
  • Schedule visits and set up a recurring schedule
  • Consider video chat as a bridge
  • Make frequent/regular phone calls to/from family and friends
  • Pick up new hobbies and share them with others
  • Join similar interest groups