Loneliness a Re-Hospitalization Risk for More Seniors

Health does not stand in isolation. We are whole people, and solutions for the current health and senior care challenges need to look at the big picture, i.e., the whole person as well as the full continuum of care.

never too old to hold hands

As Lifesprk founder and CEO Joel Theisen often says, we know the algorithms for heart failure and pneumonia, but what are the algorithms for loneliness? And it seems that question is gaining increasing importance.

Now studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine show that social factors undermine our health and well-being, and that if we want to stop re-hospitalizations and improve outcomes, we need to address them.

In fact, the researchers stress: ‘by separating suffering and distress into medical and nonmedical spheres, health care providers may be missing a key risk factor for poor health.”

“Reducing the risk of adverse health outcomes is dependent on much more than medical care. The present study demonstrates that loneliness is an identifiable and measurable risk factor for morbidity and mortality.”

“On the basis of our findings, we hypothesize that health outcomes in older people may be improved by focusing on policies that promote social engagement and, more importantly, by helping elders develop and maintain satisfying interpersonal relationships.”

“Our results suggest that questioning older persons about loneliness may be a useful way of identifying elderly persons at risk of disability and poor health outcomes.”

At Lifesprk, the assessment for loneliness and social factors are integral aspects of our Lifesprk Experience model, and one that we feel strongly about.

Be careful, though, of confusing loneliness with being alone. The researchers define loneliness as ‘the subjective feeling of isolation, not belonging or lacking companionship.” They found that people suffering from loneliness are just as likely to live with others as live alone.

According to the research, loneliness affects 1 in 3 people in the second half of life, and shows a strong relationship between loneliness and disability.

The researchers add: ‘loneliness may be as an important of a predictor of adverse health outcomes as many traditional medical risk factors.”

In an amednews.com article, lead researcher Carla Perssinotto, MD, shared that ‘if we focus only on blood pressure, we really are missing a lot of what is going on in someone’s life.”

How are you assessing your clients’ risks for loneliness?