End Isolation & Loneliness

Social Isolation & Loneliness: What’s the Difference?

  • Social Isolation: The objective experience of having few or infrequent social connections.
  • Loneliness: The subjective and distressing feeling of being alone or isolated, often defined as the difference between actual and desired level of social connection.
  • Social Connection: The ways that people can be physically, emotionally, and culturally connected to others.
The Impact of Loneliness & Social Isolation

Loneliness and social isolation have serious physical and mental health implications in older adults and people with disabilities.
In older adults:
A study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine showed:

  • More than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. 

  • 30% of U.S. households have a single member; approximately 34.75 million people live in single-person households.

  • Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.

  • Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.

  • Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.

  • Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.

In people with disabilities:

Michigan University health policy brief developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research showed:

  • 40% of adults with a debilitating disability or chronic condition report feeling lonely or socially isolated

  • Specific health risks associated with social isolation and loneliness include: increased mortality, increased blood pressure and progression of Alzheimer’s Disease, depression, pain, and fatigue, failing immune system, and decreased restorative sleep

  • Adults with disability have unequal access to technology



This self-evaluation tool from AARP’s Connect2Affect can help people identify their level of connection.

National Resources

Wisconsin Resources

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