Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults Pose Health Risks

Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults Pose Health Risks.

by Mirely Baca, RN, About Care Care Coordinator

Humans are social by nature and research shows that social networks tend to decrease in size as we age leading to increased cases of isolation and loneliness.

As of 2019, 28% of older adults in the United States live alone. Not all older adults who live alone report feelings of loneliness and some who live or spend time with several other folks may report feeling lonely.  Loneliness is subjective while social isolation is objective.  

Through research, social isolation and loneliness have been linked to higher risk of high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, weakened immune system, depression, anxiety, cognitive decline including Alzheimer’s disease and even death. 

Feelings of loneliness can also disrupt sleep, quality of life, eating routines, and ability to care for self. Important to also note that chronic health conditions may also increase isolation and feelings of loneliness.

Chronic loneliness can occur from losing community and connection such as when family members moving away or the death of a spouse. Chronic loneliness can cause feelings of being threatened and mistrustful of other people which can induce stress and inflammation, weakening the immune system.

Loneliness can be hereditary and may be between 37-55% heritable. This genetic factor may lead to people feeling lonely even if surrounded by people and having an extensive social life.

Research shows that cognitive impairment can also increase isolation.  Some participants in a study regarding cognitive impairment and isolation stated they noticed a decrease in friends wanting to spend time with them after sharing their Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Other contributing factors to isolation include lack of services willing to support older adults with cognitive impairment as staff may lack specialized training, lack of affordability of supportive services because of higher fees due to specialized training or having their driver’s licenses revoked without alternative transportation options.

Additionally, older adults often do not reach out for help due to fear of being forced out of their homes, thus spending majority of their time alone attempting to manage their own health and home.

However, research supports a link between having a sense of purpose and mission to a healthier immune system. Volunteering may be one way to contribute to older adult’s feeling a sense of purpose and decreasing their feelings of loneliness.

About Care offers friendly visits and reassurance phone calls to our clients. Check out About Care’s Services page to learn about these services and more. Contact About Care today at 480.802.2331, Extension 1.

For more information regarding loneliness and isolation in older adults read:

Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks | National Institute on Aging (

Health Effects of Social Isolation and Loneliness | Aging Life Care (

If you would like to volunteer, please call 480.802.2331, Extension 2 or visit the About Care Volunteer Page for more information.


  1. About Care offers services to help Homebound seniors and persons living with disabilities feel less lonely and isolated!

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