Effects of Social Isolation and Loneliness on Physical, Mental and Cognitive Health
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Effects of Social Isolation and Loneliness on Physical, Mental and Cognitive Health

December 8, 2019 | Health | By Lisa Smith

Loneliness is wide spread and studies show impact across age groups. Older adults however remain most vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation. They thus are at the highest risk of related effects on physical, mental and cognitive well-being. Such is the level of alarm that governments across Australia, United Kingdom, Denmark etc are promoting research based identification, awareness and intervention of social isolation and loneliness.

Measuring or Identifying Loneliness and Social Isolation

Loneliness and Social Isolation are usually related to staying sans companionship, support or connect.

a. Marital Status: Social connect being considered, marital status is a prime factor. Not only does it provide the first human touch but also enhances interaction probability generally speaking. Research suggests proportional benefits between health and marriage. So what’s your marital / partner status?

b. Religious Service Attendance Frequency: Stepping out for weekly service promotes social integration and support which in turn associates with lower levels of loneliness and social isolation. Do you attend service or prayer meets?

c. Club Meetings: Joining a club with a motto or for the purpose of socialization curtails feeling lonely and isolated. Of course using visits effectively will define actual benefits for you. Are you a club member?

d. Group Activities: Travel group, volunteering, sports and more are all relevant to interaction and socialization. Group activities are also a means to an end which the group relates to. Are you part of a group with a goal?

e. Number of Close Friends And Relatives: Friends and relatives will always remain busy and drifting apart is expected. The real challenge is keeping in touch, especially if your friends or relatives are of the same age group. Its a definite means of social dependence and support. Do you make efforts from your end to keep in touch?

Effects of Loneliness and Social Isolation

Severe enough for governments internationally to be alarmed. With growing age, loneliness and isolation are booming with no medical or technological cure. Humans are social beings and they ought to remain social to avoid these effects.

a. Depression: Loneliness and depression are like conjoined twins. Both feelings heighten and become the cause for the other. Usually related to stress and anxiety, loneliness and social isolation are major causes of depression thus harming the body.

b. Poor Sleep Quality: The feeling of being blank and still thinking is something lonely folks experience often. This continues into the sleep time. As one experiences loneliness and related isolation or depression, lack of physical activity too causes poor sleep and the vicious cycle continues.

c. Impaired Executive Function: One finds themselves at lack of ability to analyze, plan, organize, schedule and complete pending tasks. Loss of self control impairs positive future outcomes.

d. Accelerated Cognitive Decline: Impaired executive function follows conditions like Dementia, Alzheimer etc which have been directly linked to loneliness through various studies and is increasingly difficult to reverse.

e. Poor Cardiovascular Function: Reduced physical movement, socialization and subdued nutrition intake all converge at decline in cardiovascular health. Though more prominent in men the condition effects either gender equally.

f. Impaired Immunity: One is experiencing isolation, depression, hardly eats, rarely goes out, facing health issues which may not be getting doctor consultation, how long will the immunity hold. Its the multiplier effect of problems even if not being diagnosed is emanating from loneliness and social isolation.

g. Increased Risk of Premature Death: What follows is something that could be very well avoided. Little care and companionship could make a world of difference.

Other Aspects to Consider

a. Impact of Race on Social Isolation: Though we may not think of it much, studies go onto establish race as another factor impacting social isolation and loneliness. White men and women fall in lower risk category compared to black men and women.

b. Impact on Immunity Systems and Inflammations on Social Isolation: Research initiatives suggest increased activity of sympathetic nervous system having a role in the “fight or flight” response which overstimulates inflammatory white blood cell production and reduced anti viral proteins. This leads to an array of disease and heightened loneliness and isolation condition.

Remedies and Prevention

a. Social Interaction: Cannot be stressed enough, interaction is the first building block towards pulling oneself away from loneliness and social isolation. All interactions short or long count ad they promote the basic social nature of human beings. So find new ways to interact and new people to interact. Follow the old mechanism of meeting people and say Hi!

b. Community Participation and Social Groups: Sense of purpose drives participation. Voluntary, goal based or just casual, participation or group activities are key. Don’t shy away from any such opportunities be it a weekend group gathering or a group travel.

c. Co-Housing: Don’t have a companion, why not try the young days and co-habitat. Many women actually do that in their senior age. It’s a great way to find someone to talk to and for all you know you have similar hobbies.

d. Less Family Strain: Focus less on the strain from family and friends and enjoy the human touch and companionship.


Loneliness and social isolation are recognized as serious threats to older adults well-being and life span. As the world takes notice so should we and focus on our health and pending life goals. Remember the social needs we feel are felt by many others so get out there and begin interacting today!

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