Social Isolation is as deadly as second hand smoke.
The first time I read this headline I stopped in my tracks. I think about all the senior adults I cared for as a home health social worker. I think about the people discharged from the hospital to another facility far away from family and their community. It brought to mind patients in the Intensive Care Units that are tethered to ventilators, feeding tubes and other machines that beep and blink and no one comes to visit. And I remember my childhood hometown where the snowfall kept many older adults trapped in the house waving to me as I delivered the morning newspaper.
Loneliness kills. It slowly eats away at disabled veteran who have lost themselves into their devices and video games. Where a virtual world is the only interaction they seek. It can disable new mothers suffering with postpartum depression. The rise in worsening chronic health conditions due to loneliness is well documented.
K. G. Emerson and J. Jayawardhana published a study in the American Journal of Public Health on the growing importance of loneliness as a public health issue. These researchers followed the same older adults for years. They discovered the percentage of seniors reporting being lonely increased over time. The same people reporting as lonely had declining abilities to perform Activities of Daily Living and increase in depression symptoms. One major contribution is this senior adult loneliness is the death of or distance from family and friends.
There is a solution! We can combat loneliness just as we have second hand smoke. Both problems required focused attention on the root cause. Smoke free zones in public places, commercials showing the dangers of tobacco and all other media campaigns have drastically cut tobacco use today.
We can do the same for loneliness. Kindness campaigns are a good start. Here is what you can do to cut the loneliness rate in your own community. Build a Circle of Care around your most vulnerable members. Reach out to disabled veterans in your family. Keep them active by posting them messages on their REUNIONCare Bulletin Board. Offer to spend an hour with a senior adult or someone convalescing so their caregiving can run errands or simply, rest.
Join us at REUNIONCare and fight loneliness.