To many, the holiday season is often filled with the imagery of warmth, family gatherings and celebration. But what about those who aren't so lucky to have these positive associations with "the most wonderful time of the year?" For many, especially older adults, this can be an even more lonesome time of year. To better understand this phenomenon and its implications, AARP commissioned a recent survey to learn more about loneliness and social isolation among the 45+ population. According to AARP, in addition to examining prevalence rates among older Americans, the study provides a descriptive profile of lonely older adults and examines the relationships between loneliness and health, health behaviors, involvement in a social network and use of technology for social communications and networking. Key findings revealed:
- A little over one-third (35%) of the survey respondents were categorized as lonely.
- Older adults reported lower rates of loneliness than those who were younger (43% of those age 45-49 were lonely compared to 25% of those 70+). Married respondents were less likely to be lonely (29%) compared to never-married respondents (51%), and those with higher incomes were less likely to be lonely than those with lower incomes.
- Lonely respondents were less likely to be involved in activities that build social networks, such as attending religious services, volunteering, participating in a community organization or spending time on a hobby.
- Almost half (45%) of those who had lived in their current residence for less than 1 year reported feeling lonely.
- Loneliness was a significant predictor of poor health. Those who rated their health as “excellent” were over half as likely to be lonely than those who rated their health as “poor” (25% vs. 55%).
- Lonely and non-lonely respondents did not differ significantly from each other in terms of their frequency of email use. However, 13% of lonely respondents felt they have fewer deep connections now that they keep in touch with people using the Internet, compared to 6% of non-lonely respondents.