Research Confirms Loneliness and Social Isolation are Killers






Last week at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, researchers from Brigham Young University presented the results of their analysis of more than 200 studies involving almost 4 million people on four continents which showed that loneliness, social isolation or living alone increases the risk of premature death by up to 50%, more than that of obesity and other major health issues.

Conference summary:

Sign Up for E-News

Use this news

For starters, let’s clarify the difference between loneliness and social isolation.  Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, they are different. Social isolation is when people have limited or no contact with others. It is a lack of social interaction with relatives, neighbors, colleagues, etc. Loneliness, on the other hand, is an emotion, a feeling. It is sadness or distress from being alone.  Some people can be socially isolated and not lonely, others can be lonely but not socially isolated. Bottom line – they both increases the risk of premature death.

So, what makes a person more likely to be lonely and/or socially isolated? According to Connect2Affect, (an initiative of the AARP Foundation aimed at ending social isolation) people dealing with the following are at increased risk:

Transportation issues
             no access to transportation or no longer able to drive
Life changes
             retirement, death of a partner or friend/s, becoming a caregiver
Health challenges
              hearing loss, mobility loss, mental health issues
              rural living, poverty, marginalization (racial/ethnic minority, LGBT)

Below is a quick loneliness self-assessment from AARP, Inc. Take a few minutes to do it yourself and then share it with others. Not only may it start a conversation about loneliness and social isolation, but it just might be the impetus for changing someone’s life.

For each of the following statements, circle the number that indicates how often you feel the way described using the numbers below.
There are no right or wrong answers.

 1= Never
                                            2= Rarely
                                            3= Sometimes
                                            4= Always

1. How often do you feel unhappy doing so many things alone?                                      1    2    3   4

2. How often do you feel you have no one to talk to?                                                         1    2    3   4

3. How often do you feel you cannot tolerate being so alone?                                          1    2    3   4

4. How often do you feel as if no one understands you?                                                     1    2    3   4

5. How often do you find yourself waiting for people to call or write?                             1    2    3   4

6. How often do you feel completely alone?                                                                          1    2    3   4

7. How often do you feel unable to reach out and communicate with                             1   2    3    4  
    those around you?   

8. How often do you feel starved for company?                                                                   1    2    3   4

9. How often do you feel it is difficult for you to make friends?                                        1    2    3   4

10. How often do you feel shut out and excluded by others?                                            1    2    3   4

                                                                                                            Total __________


To get your total score, add up the number from each question response.
The average loneliness score on the measure is 20.
A score of 25 – 29 indicates a high level of loneliness.
A score of 30 or higher indicates a very high level of loneliness.

If you score high on the loneliness scale, here are a few things Eldercare Locator and AARP suggest might help to address or prevent loneliness:

  • Volunteer at a shelter or a hospice, tutor children, or help out with a kids' sports team.
  • Schedule a time each day to call someone
  • Use social media to stay connected to friends and family. If you don’t know how to use social media, call your local community college, senior center or library to find out about classes.
  • Take up an old hobby and connect with others with the same hobby
  • Take a class to learn something new and meet new people.
  • Check out the activities, programs and events at faith-based organizations.
  • Change the situation by changing your thoughts, expectations and behaviors toward others.
  • Talk with a licensed therapist

For more information:   

All the lonely people

Mayo Clinic
Tips to Avoid Social Isolation during cancer

National Institutes of Health
Medical Isolation and your emotions

National Institute on Aging
Seminar on Loneliness and Social Isolation

United Way of Northern NJ
Caregivers Coalition

Eldercare Locator



Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES is the principal of Associates for Health Education and Behavior, LLC, in Sparta, a practice focused on improving health through education. Her office offers individual and group health education, and individual health behavior change guidance.  For more information please see  To contact Dr. Hayden, email her

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Millburn/Short Hills

National Weather Service Issues Heat Advisory thru Sunday for Millburn Township

June 30, 2018

MILLBURN, NJ —  A heat wave rolling into the area is expected to last through Sunday, with the National Weather Service (NWS) calling for a heat advisory for Millburn Township through 12:00 pm Sunday. However, an excessive heat watch runs through Monday evening. 

According to the NWS, the heat index values are projected in the mid to upper 90s today and ...

Millburn Police Issue Multiple Summons Based on Outstanding Warrants

July 17, 2018

On July 11, 2018 Millburn Police Officer Shanahan stopped a 2014 Honda Accord on Millburn/Vauxhall for speeding. The investigation led to the arrest of 22 year old Lyes Yakoubi of Jersey City on an outstanding traffic warrant out of West Windsor. Mr. Yakoubi was issued a summons and released with a new court date.

On July 11, 2018 Millburn Police Sergeant Delrusso observed a 2007 Acura MDX on ...

To Our Current and Future Representatives

July 17, 2018

To Our Current and Future Representatives - Wherever They May Be:

We can never forget we are a nation of immigrants. 

We cannot fall prey to fear, ignorance and anger when we  have been historically driven by freedom and justice. 

We must have the courage and will to fight hate, bigotry and prejudice. 

We must not wake up to what we hoped was a bad dream and ...

Murphy Administration Takes Action to Help Smokers Quit

July 16, 2018

Eliminates Prior Approval for Medicaid Tobacco Cessation Medications; Counseling Options to be Expanded

TRENTON, NJ – The Murphy administration on Monday announced new steps to help New Jersey Medicaid recipients quit using tobacco by making it easier to receive tobacco cessation medications and counseling.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease ...

Second Millburn Summer Concert Set for Sunday, July 8

MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn Short Hills Summer Concerts in the Park program will hold its second concert of the season featuring “Soul Groove” this Sunday, July 8th (7:00pm-8:30 pm). All of the concerts are free of charge and take place in Taylor Park on Main Street. 

Soul Groove comes back again this year to the summer concert series  Together ...

Authorities are Seeking Assistance in Finding Victim’s Family 

NEWARK, NJ – Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino announced today that authorities are seeking the public’s assistance in locating relatives of Gilbert Garcia, a/k/a Geovanny Gonzales, who died on Friday, June 22, 2018 after being assaulted in Newark. Garcia was attacked on Raymond Boulevard near Penn Station in the early morning hours of June 22. He was ...

5 Simple Ways to Save Water this Summer

According to the L.A. Times, the average American uses an estimated 98 gallons of water EACH day.  

Here are five simple ways you can save water, to help you conserve water this summer and take some pressure off of your drains.

1. Unless you are using it, turn the faucet off. How many of us still leave the water running while we shave or brush our teeth?According to ...