Loneliness and Social Isolation as a Risk Factor: The Power of Social Connection
Social relationships are adaptive and crucial for survival, yet in light of the current pandemic we have limited means of fulfilling this biological need. Indeed, evidence suggests social isolation and loneliness were prevalent prior to the pandemic and may be exacerbated. Social connections have powerful influences on health and longevity and that lacking social connection qualifies as a risk factor for premature mortality. Growing evidence also points to the short-term effects on biomarkers of health and health relevant behaviors, guiding understanding of both the causal mechanisms by which social connection influences physical health and the ways in which this influence can inform potential intervention strategies. A recent National Academy of Science consensus committee report provides recommendations for how this evidence can inform medical and healthcare. The current pandemic has shown us how integral social contact is to every aspect of our lives, and thus each of these sectors can play an important role in solutions.
- Robust evidence documents significant morbidity and mortality risk associated with social isolation and loneliness.
- A significant portion of the population is isolated, lonely, or both, and restrictions associated with the pandemic may exacerbate the problem
- Given the public health and clinical importance of social isolation and loneliness, greater prioritization is needed to design, evaluate, and scale evidence-based solutions