Five Things to Know About Loneliness in Older Adults

By Staff Reporter, Parent Herald April 29, 10:49 am

Loneliness, an emotional state rather than a mental disorder, can substantially affect the health of older adults, as well as use of health care services. A "Five things to know about ..." practice article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) summarizes key points to help clinicians understand the effect of loneliness on older patients.

Loneliness is

  • an emotional state of perceived isolation
  • common in older adults and linked to declines in health
  • as harmful as other risk factors for death, such as obesity and smoking
  • a significant predictor of health care usage
  • possibly alleviated by "social prescribing" to connect lonely adults with community supports and social networks

"Our health care system and society are increasingly recognizing loneliness as a serious public health problem, but clinicians are often unprepared to properly assess and manage lonely patients," says Dr. Nathan Stall, a research fellow at the University of Toronto and Women's College Research Institute and a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Ontario.

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