Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System

Many who are socially isolated or lonely and who do not have consistent interactions with others may never be identified in their own communities. However, nearly all persons 50 years of age or older interact with the health care system in some way. As a result, health care providers may be in the best position to identify older individuals who are at highest risk for social isolation or loneliness—individuals for whom the health care system may be their only point of contact with their broader community.

With support from the AARP Foundation, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine formed an ad hoc committee to study how social isolation and loneliness affect health and quality of life in adults aged 50 and older, particularly among low-income, underserved, and vulnerable subpopulations (or those considered “at risk”). In the resulting report, the committee identifies and recommends opportunities for clinical health care providers to help reduce the incidence and adverse health impacts of social isolation and loneliness and to examine ways to disseminate this information to health care practitioners.