Chronic loneliness is a real thing. 1 in 3 adults over 45 is chronically lonely. 1 in 2 over the age of 65. If social isolation does not seem like a real issue to you, what you’ll find out will change your mind. Read on from the AARP’s summary of research below:
“Although social isolation and loneliness share similarities and frequently occur together, they are distinct and can occur independent of one another. Social isolation is objective, with measurable factors like the size of one’s social network, the frequency of contact with that network, availability of transportation, and the ability to take advantage of support resources. Loneliness is more personal and subjective — that is, how people perceive their experience and whether they feel they lack the connections, companionship or sense of belonging that we need as humans.
Both social isolation and loneliness have emerged as public health issues. Studies have found that they are worse for health than obesity, and the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Today it is also known that social isolation and loneliness have serious implications. Every month, Medicare spends approximately $134 more for each socially isolated older adult than it would if the person were connected; as an estimated 4 million older adults enrolled in traditional Medicare are socially isolated, this represents an estimated $6.7 billion in additional Medicare spending annually 2 .
The new survey examines social connections in 2018, improving our understanding of loneliness and how it relates to social isolation factors. In addition, it provides updated data for related issues that were only emerging in 2010; for example, when the survey was first started social media was still a nascent form of communication. The study also measures the prevalence rates of loneliness across demographic groups and provides a descriptive pro le of lonely adults, while also exploring the relationship between loneliness and life experiences, social connections, health, and technology.
Key Findings among adults age 45 and older, 1 in 3 are lonely. Overall, more than one-third (35 percent) of U.S. adults age 45 and older are lonely, based on the UCLA loneliness scale. While this number is unchanged from the previous loneliness study conducted in 2010, approximately 5 million more midlife and older adults are lonely due to growth in this age group among the population. Older adults with lower incomes are at greater risk and that among midlife and older adults earning less than $25,000 per year, 1 in 2 are likely to be lonely. Today, more than 36 million older adults are struggling to make ends meet; of those, more than 10 million are already living in poverty 3 . This means a signifcant number of vulnerable older adults could be at risk for loneliness and social isolation.”