Loneliness and Social Connections: A National Survey of Adults 45 and Older

About one-third of U.S. adults age 45 and older report feeling lonely — and, due to an increased number of aging adults, the number is growing.

This survey by AARP Foundation finds that those who have low income are especially vulnerable. Nearly half of midlife and older adults with annual incomes of less than $25,000 report being lonely. A full 10 million people over the age of 50 live in poverty in the United States.

People who are lonely and socially isolated are more likely to have health problems, which can have serious financial implications. Social isolation among midlife and older adults is associated with an estimated $6.7 billion in additional Medicare spending annually.

The national survey of 3,020 midlife and older adults was designed to get a current snapshot of loneliness and how it relates to social isolation factors. Building on a previous study by AARP in 2010, it explores the relationship between loneliness and social connections, life experiences, health, and technology. Researchers used the UCLA Loneliness Scale, calculated from a battery of 20 questions, to measure loneliness.

Top predictors of loneliness: size and diversity of an individual’s social network and being physically isolated. Other contributing factors include age, depression, urbanicity, anxiety and overall health.

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