Members in the Media
From: The New York Times

We Need to Understand the Difference Between Isolation and Loneliness

How many close friends and relatives do you have with whom you feel at ease and can discuss private matters? How many of them do you see at least once a month? Do you participate in any groups? These are among the questions on a survey called the Berkman-Syme Social Network Index, which physicians use to determine whether someone is “socially isolated.” People are considered isolated if they have fewer than six confidants, no spouse and no group affiliations. Those conditions make them less likely to report that they have someone they can count on to listen if they need to talk, give advice about a problem or show them love and affection.

But you can have plenty of connections, even close connections, and still feel lonely. To assess that subjective state, clinicians may use the three-item U.C.L.A. Loneliness Scale, which asks: How often do you feel you lack companionship? How often do you feel left out? How often do you feel isolated?

Social isolation and loneliness tend to go together. Researchers have become increasingly aware, though, that you can experience one but not the other. That means these states of being may have different causes, different impacts on health and different potential solutions. In February 2020, a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine noted that a third of Americans over 45 feel lonely; a quarter of those over 65 are socially isolated. Each condition increases a person’s risk of premature death from any cause — as much as or more than smoking or a lack of physical activity do — as well as the risk of heart disease and stroke. Social isolation increased the risk of dementia 50 percent, and loneliness correlated with higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide. Older adults, along with people in marginalized groups, are at heightened risk of both isolation and loneliness.

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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