Loneliness Spikes In Older Adults During Pandemic

By Serena McNiff
HealthDay reporter

MONDAY September 14, 2020 (HealthDay News) – The constraints of the coronavirus pandemic are causing many more seniors to feel lonely this summer than in years past.

Many older people feel isolated as they protect themselves from the virus, according to a new survey.

In June, the National Survey on Healthy Aging surveyed more than 2,000 American adults between the ages of 50 and 80.

More than half said they sometimes or often feel isolated from others, which is more than double the 27% who said the same feeling in a 2018 poll.

And the proportion of older adults who said they rarely interacted with friends, neighbors or family outside of their household also increased from the previous survey.

Almost half of those polled in June this year said they only interacted with these groups once a week or less, compared to 28% who said so in 2018.

And while technology like video chat and social media can be a great way to connect during the pandemic, those who used these tools were more likely to say they felt isolated.

A majority of the sample said they maintained a healthy lifestyle, with eight in ten reporting getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet. But those who experienced loneliness were less likely to report engaging in healthy behaviors such as going out and exercising.

Likewise, those who said they were unaccompanied were more likely to report that their mental and physical health was fair or poor.

These findings could indicate an intersection between loneliness and health, which is an area that “requires a lot of study,” John Piette said in a press release from the University of Michigan. He is a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health who worked with the survey team.

“Previous studies have shown that prolonged isolation has a profound negative effect on health and well-being as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” added Alison Bryant, senior vice president of research for AARP, who helped support the survey.

“We can all take the time to contact older neighbors, friends and relatives in a safe way as they try to avoid the coronavirus,” Piette added.

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SOURCE: University of Michigan, press release, September 14, 2020

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