Since humans are social animals, our connection to others lets us not just survive, but thrive. However, many people are alone more often as they age, leaving them vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation – as well as related health problems like depression, cognitive decline, and heart disease.
According to Lisbeth Nielsen, Ph.D., of NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research :
-“A key scientific question is whether social isolation and loneliness are two independent processes affecting health differently, or whether loneliness provides a pathway for social isolation to affect health.”
Luckily, there are ways to counteract the negative effects of loneliness and social isolation.
Health Effects of Loneliness and Social Isolation
Research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are linked to higher risks for many mental and physical conditions, including :
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- High blood pressure
- Cognitive decline
- Weakened immune system
Those at the highest risk include people who find themselves unexpectedly alone due to the death of a partner or spouse, retirement, separation from family or friends, lack of transportation, or loss of mobility.
On the other hand, people who participate in productive, meaningful activities tend to have a sense of purpose, boost their mood, and live longer. Studies show these activities may also improve cognitive function and maintain well-being .
Much of the research on the causes and effects of loneliness and social isolation comes from John T. Cacioppo, Ph.D., former director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago and an NIA grantee, as well as his wife and collaborator, Stephanie Cacioppo, Ph.D.
This research showed that loneliness and being alone are different but related . Loneliness is the subjective distressed feeling of being separated or alone, while social isolation is the objective physical separation from others (living alone).
One theory suggests that loneliness triggers biological and behavioral processes that contribute to the link between loneliness and premature death.
The Biology of Loneliness
According to Steve Cole, Ph.D., director of the Social Genomics Core Laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles :
-“Loneliness acts as a fertilizer for other diseases. The biology of loneliness can accelerate the buildup of plaque in arteries, help cancer cells grow and spread, and promote inflammation in the brain leading to Alzheimer’s disease. Loneliness promotes several different types of wear and tear on the body.”
Researching Social and Genetic Determinants of Loneliness
Using twins and family-based approaches, some studies have estimated the heritability of loneliness between 37-55%. Nancy Pedersen, Ph.D., a professor of genetic epidemiology at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, said:
-“Individuals who are not prone genetically to feeling lonely may, for example, suffer much less from social isolation, while others feel lonely even though they are surrounded and part of a rich social life.”
Further research is still needed to clarify the extent to which social isolation and loneliness are malleable as well as how much change in social isolation is required to see a meaningful change in health.
What is Virtual Caregiving at Home, How Can Virtual Care Help?
Virtual Caregiving is a unique way to provide monitored care for your loved-one. Virtual Caregiving is an excellent solution to enhance the care that is provided by your Amelia Home Care Caregiver, filling in the gaps when the caregiver is not on shift.
There’s an urgent need for a service that helps seniors live in their homes longer and more safely. Every home is different and every lifestyle is different, and solutions from other platforms simply aren’t smart enough to address these real-world challenges.
A new solution is needed that incorporates modern technologies to serve as a comprehensive safety net. We fix this with a remote care service that is the most intuitive in the world. It learns constantly to predict wellness-related concerns of people in the home, and it’s remarkably simple to setup and operate.
Healthcare, senior communities, and home care providers can deliver our telehomecare services quickly, affordably, and with noteworthy differentiation to their customers for recurring revenues. With the insights provided by our solutions, care workers can focus their energy on the patients, clients, or residents who need the most attention – right now.
The realities of COVID-19 have accelerated an unmistakable trend – the desire to age at home. Living at home safely and independently is a basic desire for everyone.
Our telehomecare system encourages confidence and peace of mind for everyone – our elder loved ones, their families, caregivers, caregiving agencies, and communities. It helps address concerns of senior falls, wandering and loneliness in a new collaborative way.
It also supports families of seniors whose wellbeing can be monitored remotely around the clock, enabling unique ‘trusted circle’ collaboration.
The Benefits of Virtual Care at Home:
- Aging and healing at home
- Detects falls and inactivity inside the home
- Keeping seniors at home longer (as opposed to a facility)
- Low Cost, Highly Effective
- Compliments In-Home Care Services
- Private, Non-Intrusive, Peace-of-Mind
If you or an aging loved one would like more one-on-one assistance with a private care coordinator, using telehealth, contact Amelia Home Care today and ask about our Virtual Care program. (929) 333-3955
- National Institute on Aging, Social Isolation, Loneliness in Older People Pose Health Risks, https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks
- John T Cacioppo and Stephanie Cacioppo, PubMed, Older Adults Reporting Social Isolation or Loneliness Show Poorer Cognitive Function 4 Years Later, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23749730/
- Stephanie Cacioppo et al, PubMed, Loneliness: Clinical Import and Interventions, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25866548/