Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions

March 8, 2021 Joe Brady

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Older man sitting alone on bench
Social isolation was associated with about
a 50% increased risk of dementia and other
serious medical conditions. 

Loneliness and social isolation in older adults are serious public health risks affecting a significant number of people in the United States and putting them at risk for dementia and other serious medical conditions.

new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) points out that more than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.1 Older adults are at increased risk for loneliness and social isolation because they are more likely to face factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness, and hearing loss.

Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact. Social isolation is a lack of social connections. Social isolation can lead to loneliness in some people, while others can feel lonely without being socially isolated.

Health Risks of Loneliness 

Although it’s hard to measure social isolation and loneliness precisely, there is strong evidence that many adults aged 50 and older are socially isolated or lonely in ways that put their health at risk. Recent studies found that:

  • Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.1
  • Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.1
  • Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.1
  • Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.1

Join us in a panel discussion with the author of a new play on the subject, Hunker Down: Building relationships during a pandemic, brought to you by the Firehouse Theatre

Hunker Down

Building relationships during a pandemic

A Play By Robert F. Benjamen 

In May 2020 neighbors Barry and Kevin are contending with the isolation forced upon them by the pandemic. After two months of lockdown, the extroverted Barry reaches her limit and comes knocking on Kevin’s door desperate for a little human connection. A self-identified curmudgeon, Kevin turns her away but agrees to meet on zoom. This heartwarming story about staying sane while staying safe gives us perspective, romance, and humor. The one-hour show will be presented live on zoom and talkback session with the actors in the playwright follows the performance.

  • March 19, 7:30 PM
  • March 20, 7:30 PM 
  • and March 21, at 2:00 PM

March 19, 7:30PM (MT) 


March 20, 7:30PM (MT) 


March 21, 2:00PM (MT) 


Join us in a Panel Discussion with the Playwright

Being socially connected in meaningful ways is key to human health and survival. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to sustain our social and emotional connections, a task that is critical to our public health recovery from the pandemic. Proximity to others particularly trusted others, signal safety. When we lack proximity to trusted others are brain and body may respond with a state of heightened alert and this can result in an increase in blood pressure, stress hormones, and inflammatory responses. 

 March 22, 2021, 1-3 pm

Via zoom (meeting ID 3039032368)