Sep 10, 2021

New research: Why loneliness can be fatal for older adults

Lonely old man window

The study “illustrates the need for hospitals to identify older patients who lack social networks and connect them with programs designed to provide isolated individuals support,” shared Dr Lauren E. Ferrante, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Yale School of Medicine and the senior author of the paper.

With former colleague Jason Falvey, now a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Ferrante and the Yale team examined data from 997 patients in the National Health and Aging Trends study who were admitted to ICUs between 2011 and 2018. 

They tracked their health one year after their admission to hospital.

Participants were asked questions about their social interactions, such as whether they talk to family or friends about important matters, visit family or friends, or if they participate in social events, such as church. 

Levels of social isolation were ranked from zero to six.

Overall, the researchers found patients over the age of 65 are more likely to have functional problems, such as difficulty dressing or walking, after discharge from a stay in hospital that included a period in ICU. 

Each increase in social isolation score corresponded to an increased risk of functional disability and death, the researchers found. 

The most socially isolated older adults had a 119% greater risk of death in the year after an ICU admission, and a 50% higher burden of functional disability.

“Our work is focused on understanding and improving the functional recovery of older adults who survive the ICU,” said Ferrante. 

Ferrante suggested that after older patients are discharged, hospital volunteers could check in weekly to see how they are, and for tasks such as arranging transport to appointments. 

Social workers could help by enrolling older people in programs that facilitate social engagement.

Hospitalisation can be an opportunity to identify people who are socially isolated, said Ferrante. 

The study was published on September 7 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Banner Banner

129,000 older Australians without enough home care as waiting list grows

  The government’s latest information shows that more than 129,000 older Australians are waiting for the level of home care they need. Those on the waiting list have been assessed as needing a particular level of care, but funding the full level of care has not come through. Many waiting more than 12 months for... Read More

Young and old together at Bundoora

  Intergenerational programs, such as ABC’s Old People’s Home For 4-Year-Olds, aren’t only for the youngest members of the community. Secondary School students from Parade College, Bundoora regularly visit their next-door neighbours at VMCH Bundoora Aged Care Residence. The students volunteer their time assisting with and participating in the activities each week. The most popular... Read More

Lack of government booking website leaves GPs disadvantaged in the face of next stage vaccine program

Phase 1b of the COVID-19 vaccine is due to roll out across the country today, however, with no online booking method and lack of clarity around how many doses clinics will have access to, GPs are left disadvantaged despite playing a key role in this phase. Read More
Banner Banner