Senate Aging Committee to Examine the Effects of Social Isolation

From Senator Susan Collins office:

Senator Collins visits seniorsWashington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Bob Casey, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, will hold a hearing on Thursday, April 27th at 9:45 a.m. in Hart 216 titled, “Aging Without Community: the Consequences of Isolation and Loneliness.” (See details below about how you can listen to/view the hearing)

>>Thursday, April 27, 9:45 A.M. EST – Use this link to watch the hearing live<<

Thursday’s hearing is the first in a two-part series and will examine the mental and physical health effects of social isolation and loneliness. The risks of social isolation and loneliness compare with smoking and alcohol consumption and exceed those associated with physical inactivity and obesity. Isolation and loneliness are associated with higher rates of heart disease; weakened immune system; depression and anxiety; dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease; and nursing home admissions.

The U.S. Census reported that 29 percent of persons over the age of 65 live alone, with more than 50 percent of women over the age of 75 living alone. Other studies report that one in five older adults are isolated. While living alone does not necessarily mean that a person is lonely, it can be a risk factor for loneliness or isolation. Older adults with the highest level of loneliness were more than twice as likely to die within six years as those with the lowest level of loneliness.

The hearing will also explore programs that reduce social isolation and loneliness and resources and support for older adults at risk.

Witnesses for the hearing will include:

  • Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Brigham Young University (Provo, UT)
  • Lenard Kaye, DSW, PhD, Professor of Social Work, Director of the Center on Aging, University of Maine (Bangor, ME)
  • W. Mark Clark, MSW, President and CEO, Pima Council on Aging, Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
  • Richard (Rick) Creech, Educational Consultant, Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (Harrisburg, PA)

The physical outcomes of this rapidly growing public health issue have been compared to smoking, obesity, and cancer. Prolonged isolation is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.*

Reference

* Holt-Lunstad, J, Smith, T.B., *Baker, M., *Harris, T., & *Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10 (2), 227-237. doi: 10.1177/1745691614568352