Loneliness is a serious epidemic and major public health problem impacting individuals and communities in the United States and around the globe. Even prior to COVID in March 2020, loneliness in the US was increasing. As the pandemic eventually turned more endemic, rates decreased a bit, but loneliness and isolation have endured and the rates of loneliness remain quite high. This is true among kids, adults and the elderly, but is especially bad among teens, young adults – and seniors. Also, loneliness is exacerbated in lower income communities and is often stratified by race.1
A recent Morning Consult report conducted for Cigna found that more than half of US adults (58%) are considered lonely2. Similarly, a January 2023 PBS interview reported that approximately 60% of people in the US right now feel lonely on a regular basis.3 Loneliness can have a terrible impact on an individual’s health status as well as public health overall. The current surgeon general estimates that reporting you feel lonely is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day in terms of its impact on our health and wellbeing.3
More than half of US adults are considered lonely
Renowned Yale psychology Professor, Laurie Santos notes that while the pandemic exacerbated loneliness, rates of loneliness have been increasing linearly since the 1970s – before rising technology, cell phones or the pandemic.3 Each of these circumstances has just pushed our rates higher. And though rates have dropped a bit since the global pandemic, the pandemic certainly deepened the epidemic of loneliness in America for many – with potentially steep costs, including mortality as well as serious physical and emotional problems.4,5
Before the pandemic, 1 in 4 people older than 65 experienced social isolation, putting them at greater risk of loneliness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The exact number of seniors who feel lonely is difficult to pinpoint, but one study surveyed adults over 60 and found 43% of respondents felt lonely.6,7 According to a 2021 Consumer Affairs survey of nearly 1,000 people, some adults are more lonely now than they were prior to the coronavirus pandemic. People between the ages of 66 and 75 most frequently said they are more lonely now than they were previously. However, younger people (under 55) were more likely to rate their loneliness on a higher scale. Those aged 76 to 85 were the least likely to feel more lonely now than before the pandemic.6
Loneliness is defined as the distress of being alone or separated. Some experts categorize loneliness into three types – emotional, social and existential. Others say there are as many as four to seven types – often adding at least situational and chronic loneliness categorizations as well.8,9,10
Loneliness impacts health status and health outcomes
Loneliness and isolation can have a huge impact on health status and health outcomes – and therefore the health and wellbeing of many people, especially seniors. Among the elderly – adults over 65 – loneliness and social isolation can be more common and has a direct correlation with higher rates of health issues, poor health outcomes, hospitalizations and death. This isolation can cause patients to seek less care, conduct fewer steps and seek less follow up – generally impacting how patients are doing and feeling. A recent NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA) report on loneliness and isolation, reports that being alone can leave older adults in particular, more vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation, which affects their health and well-being. Studies show loneliness and isolation are associated with higher risks for health problems like heart disease, depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, older adults who are lonely also often have longer hospital stays, more hospital readmissions and earlier death.4
Healthcare programs, providers and remote care management programs in particular can be especially helpful and are key to helping make patients less lonely – as remote care providers and personalized care partners check on, monitor and chat with patients – which helps build trust and a supportive relationship that benefits seniors.
Personalized remote care management solutions help decrease loneliness and improve health outcomes
Continuous care and strong relationships with a healthcare provider improve health status and can mitigate some poor outcomes and loneliness. Older patients often need support and reminders, regular check-ins and monitoring to achieve better health outcomes and quality of life. Remote care management by design, helps improve connection, support, ongoing monitoring and health outcomes – all of which can help decrease loneliness by offering remote care solutions that provide a personalized approach to monitoring care. The consistency and continuity of care and having an assigned provider – along with consistent remote monitoring – allow patients to build trusting, supportive relationships with their Care Partner.
Patients benefit – clinically and emotionally – from these connections and relationships which each fuel the other as improved connections and support yield improved health outcomes – and improved health status yields more connection and happiness for patients.
Staffing solutions create deep connections
In an effective remote care management program, like those offered at Medsien, each patient is assigned a specific Care Partner to support the individualized care they receive between office visits through various remote care solutions. So, not only adding providers and expanding remote monitoring in general, but specifically having a dedicated Care Partner who offers a personalized, ongoing 1:1 connection that helps patients build rapport, trust and actually look forward to speaking with their care providers.
The additional care and expanded individualized care team are key to creating connection and support, increasing not only clinical improvements and health outcomes, but increased connection with their providers, which improves patient satisfaction, patient connection and builds relationships. Clinical improvements often occur because of the additional connection and support of Care Partners, which helps patients manage their care, and feel supported and cared for – which then motivates patients to follow through and take the necessary steps in their healthcare. The added support not only improves patient satisfaction and health outcomes, but also helps build a connection and that connection helps patients who are lonely.
Care Partners are a key part of the ongoing care that remote care management brings to medical practices – but also are specifically very much a part of the ongoing relationship that is fundamental to successful remote care management. Care Partners manage the majority of the clinical components of remote care management programs. And they build close, trusting, supportive relationships – because there is time to chat, follow up, and have regular check-ins – all of which helps patients feel supported, in particular older patients who often are lonely or more isolated at home. Remote care management is set up to provide more frequent, ongoing connection and care, to reduce illness and improve health status. There’s time and room to chat, check in and build relationships when you have dedicated care partners and remote care management programs supporting and supplementing the regular care.
Remote care management : Improves communication, connection, support, adherence = Increased: Patient satisfaction, health status and health outcomes, including mental health and loneliness.
Gallup Poll, April 2023. “Loneliness in the US subsides from pandemic high.” Dan Witters.
The Loneliness Epidemic Persists: A Post Pandemic look at the state of loneliness among US adults. Morning Consult report for The Cigna Corporation. March 2022
PBS Weekend Interview, PBS Newshour January 8, 2023 “Why Americans are lonelier and its effect on health”. John Yang, PBS and Laurie Santos, cognitive scientist and psychology professor, Yale University
NIH – National Institute on Aging. “Loneliness and isolation: tips for staying connected”
Loneliness in America: How the Pandemic has deepened an epidemic of loneliness and what we can do about it. Harvard School of Education – Making Caring Common Project. Richard Weissbourd, Milena Batanova, Eric Torres. February 2021
Consumer Affairs. Elderly Loneliness Statistics (2021 Study): Social Isolation Effects. By Emma Rubin, January 2023.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences; Board on Health Sciences Policy; Committee on the Health and Medical Dimensions of Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2020 Feb 27. 4, Risk and Protective Factors for Social Isolation and Loneliness.
Four types of Loneliness the senior in your life could be feeling. By Marissa Salvesen. Nov 2020. www.umh.org
Meta analysis on loneliness the last 43 years. Psychology Today
Medsien is the leading provider of scalable remote care management for a quality patient experience. Hundreds of organizations trust Medsien’s unparalleled technology solutions to implement exceptional remote care management programs, personalize every interaction, and improve the lives of the people who need it most. Based in San Francisco and venture-backed by top-tier investors, Medsien was founded to reimagine remote care management. Visit medsien.com for more information.
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