One out of two Americans reports being socially isolated and lonely, according to Cinga’s 2018 Loneliness Index.
Social isolation and associated loneliness are public health epidemics. Nearly half of all Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out. The negative mental and physical health consequences of this isolation are staggering. Being a primary care partner for an aging loved one exacerbates this nationwide trend.
How Does Social Isolation Affect Mental and Physical Health?
Endless studies show the vast negative effects of isolation. Loneliness associated with social isolation is the main contributor to these negative outcomes.
Lack of social contact and the resulting loneliness increase stress and one’s chance of depression. According to a study published by The American Health Association, it can also double the risk of dementia. Stress, depression, and dementia increase social isolation, thus creating a continuous cycle.
The consequences of social isolation on our physical health are even more staggering. Those who are socially isolated may also get less sleep and have a weakened immune system. According to a study in BMJ Journals, social isolation is linked with a 29% increase in heart disease and a 32% increase in stroke. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States also published a study linking social isolation to increased inflammation and high blood pressure.
Why Are We Socially Isolated? (Especially When Part of a Care Partnership)
While social isolation and loneliness are nationwide epidemics, they compound in the context of care. Why?