Effects of Social Isolation on Mental Health: Impact on Older Adults
Social isolation is a condition in which an individual has limited or no contact with others. Social isolation is a common issue, especially among older adults, which can have a concerning impact on their mental and physical health. It can lead to loneliness, depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems, as well as physical health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, and a weakened immune system.
Effects of Social Isolation on Mental Health
Social isolation can have negatively impact the overall well-being of elderly adults. It can lead to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Chronic loneliness has been linked to a 14% increased risk of premature death in elderly adults, which is comparable to the risk associated with smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Social isolation has also been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Social isolation and Depression in Older Adults
The elderly population is at an increased risk of depression due to social isolation, which is a contributing factor. Social isolation can generate negative feelings of loneliness and hopelessness, potentially causing the onset of depression.
An extensive study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, revealed that older adults who are socially isolated have a higher chance of developing depression compared to those who have social connections. Even after factoring in other health-related variables, such as physical health and cognitive functioning, social isolation remains an essential risk factor for depression in elderly individuals. Notably, social isolation can induce a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, leading to a heightened risk of suicide.
Conversely, depression can also worsen social isolation in older adults. Depressed elderly individuals are more likely to avoid social engagements and relationships, culminating in a vicious cycle of social isolation and deteriorating depression.
Other effects of Social isolation in Older Adults
Social isolation can lead to other mental health issues such as
- Feeling Loneliness
- Cognitive Decline
- Difficulty remembering people
- Alzheimer’s disease
Difference between loneliness and social isolation
Social isolation and loneliness are often confused to be the same but actually these are distinct concepts.
Social isolation refers to the objective state of having limited social contact or interactions with others. This can occur due to a variety of reasons, including physical limitations, transportation issues, or living alone. Social isolation can lead to a lack of opportunities for social engagement, such as participating in group activities or spending time with friends and family.
On the other hand, loneliness is a subjective feeling of social disconnection or emotional distress. It can occur even when an individual is surrounded by others but feels disconnected or unfulfilled in their social relationships. Loneliness can be a result of social isolation, but it can also occur even when an individual has a lot of social contact.
Research has shown that both social isolation and loneliness can have negative effects on mental and physical health. For example, social isolation has been linked to increased risk of depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and mortality. Similarly, loneliness has been associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline, as well as increased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.
How to deal with Social Isolation in Older Adults?
It is essential to address social isolation in older adults. There are several ways to do this, including encouraging them to participate in social activities, interactions with friends and family, connecting them with support groups or communities, and encouraging hobbies and interests.
Additionally, technology can be an excellent tool for connecting with others, and there are many resources available to help older adults learn how to use technology effectively.
PCL Connect tablet, which is designed specifically for older adults and their caregivers can be a suitable tool here. The PCL Connect tablet is a digital health tablet that is designed to help older adults stay connected with their loved ones and manage their health and wellness. It features a digital photo album, medicine reminders, health vitals monitoring and a Caregiver app, creating a connected care ecosystem for families.
Social Isolation and Mental Health
Social isolation can have a concerning impact on mental health, with research showing that it can lead to an increased risk of cognitive decline, dementia, and other mental health issues. Maintaining social connections and engagement in life can help to prevent or reduce the risk of social isolation and mental health problems.
If you or someone you know is experiencing social isolation, it is important to seek support and help from healthcare professionals, community organisations, or family and friends.