Social Isolation: Myths vs. Realities Among Adults Age 40 and Older

This paper explores mid-life and older Americans’ knowledge of the risk factors of social isolation. Social isolation refers to an objective condition which involves quantifiable measurements such as the size of one’s social network, availability of transportation, and ability to access resources and information. Most people surveyed were aware that social isolation has serious health consequences, but didn’t believe that it was an issue which could personally affect them. Additionally, few people reported being asked about this issues by a health professional.

Overall, people tended to underestimate the health dangers of social isolation. Prolonged social isolation is in fact equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Many people also incorrectly believed that social isolation is brought on by a single event, such as the death of a spouse. In reality, social isolation is often the result of a variety of factors.