12.02.2019

Social isolation and loneliness are America's next public health issue

At our core, people are social beings. Whether we are a part of a sports team, social group or professional society, we all have the need for some type of social network. These connections give us opportunities to thrive, learn new things and enjoy healthier lives. However, for some older adults these social connections begin to dwindle as they age, and they experience a distancing from social networks or relationships with other people.

This well-studied phenomenon called social isolation is frequently interchanged with the term loneliness — but there is a difference. Social isolation exists when an individual lacks opportunities to be socially connected, whereas loneliness is distress experienced by an individual due to lack of social relationships. For example, an individual may be socially isolated but not lonely and vice versa.

 

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