August 13, 2018 – Toxic Isolation
Anchor lead: Social isolation may have much to do will poor health in older people, Elizabeth Tracey reports
Having few social interactions is increasingly associated with poor health outcomes, many studies are reporting, and the problem is especially acute for older people. Patricia Davidson, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, says there are many factors that explain why.
Davidson: Aging is isolating, particularly if you don’t have strong social support and economic resources. Venturing out of your home, people are frightened of potential violence, the traffic is daunting, many older people can’t afford a car or have their license taken for a range of issues. As we get older friends disappear. So for many people particularly in their eighties and nineties, their whole social network has disappeared. :28
Davidson notes that it’s a healthcare success story that we now have so many people aged 80 and older, but the system must turn its attention to mitigating loneliness for this population. She says loneliness is well-known, for example, to increase mortality following a heart attack so addressing this problem is another part of providing good care. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.