The Health and Medical Dimensions of Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults

Type: Consensus Study
Topics: Aging, Public Health, Select Populations and Health Equity
Board: Board on Health Sciences Policy

Activity Description

Statement of Task: An ad hoc committee under the auspices of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will examine how social isolation and loneliness impact health outcomes in older adults aged 50 and older, particularly among low income, underserved, and vulnerable populations. The committee will:

  1. Summarize and examine the evidence that social isolation and loneliness predict poor health outcomes and increase a person’s risk for premature morbidity, including evidence for: 
    1. Predictors of social isolation and loneliness
    2. Impact of social isolation and loneliness on cognitive, emotional, medical, and quality of life outcomes;  and
    3. Factors that moderate and mediate the links between social isolation/loneliness and health outcomes.
  2. Explore how social isolation and loneliness affect health care access and utilization.
  3. Make evidence-based recommendations on translating research into practice within the health care system that could facilitate progress in reducing the incidence and adverse health impacts of social isolation and loneliness among the low-income 50+ population. These recommendations will focus on the following issues:
    1. Opportunities and strategies for the identification of, prevention of, and interventions for social isolation and loneliness that can be incorporated into health care environments that may include: social and environmental programs; the education of healthcare professionals; tools and methodologies that can be used by health care practitioners; and public awareness.
    2. Current financing for social isolation and loneliness interventions and future opportunities.
  4. Examine avenues for translation and dissemination of new findings and communication of new information targeting health care practitioners.  

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