One in Three U.S. Adults Age 45 and Older are Lonely

(Washington, DC, Thursday, September 27, 2018) – A new survey from AARP Foundation“Loneliness and Social Connections Among Adults Age 45 and Older,” examines social connections and how they can improve our understanding of loneliness and how it relates to social isolation factors.

  • One in three U.S. adults age 45 and older are lonely.  While this number is unchanged from the previous loneliness study conducted in 2010, approximately 5 million more midlife and older adults are lonely due to growth in this age group among the population.
  • Unpaid caregivers, low-income individuals, and those who identify as LGBTQ are at increased risk for chronic loneliness. Special attention should be given to providing them help and resources.
  • Other notable findings from the survey include:
    • Midlife and older adults who engage in sex once a week or more are less likely to be lonely compared to those who have sex a once month or less often. Forty-three percent of adults age 45 and older who are not engaging in any sexual activity are considered lonely.
    • The study also noted the promise of technology to help reduce loneliness and social isolation, but acknowledged that it is not a substitute for human interaction. Though technology is a tool that can help bring people together when they cannot connect in person, its use does not significantly reduce loneliness.
    • Moderate exercise is also related to the rate of loneliness among midlife and older adults – 41% of those who do not exercise at all are lonely.
    • As health declines, the rate of loneliness among midlife and older adults increases. In fact, the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
  • Getting to know one’s neighbors can help reduce loneliness. The survey revealed a clear relationship between loneliness among midlife and older adults and their connections with their neighbors. Thirty-three percent of midlife and older adults who have ever spoken to their neighbors are lonely, compared with 61 percent who have never spoken to a neighbor.

National Good Neighbor Day on September 28 marks an opportunity for communities to reach out and begin a practice to improve how friends and relatives can help those who may be lonely. This annual observance was first proclaimed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 to encourage goodwill amongst neighbors and promote conversation around building relationships and a sense of community. This year, AARP Foundation will serve as a catalyst by providing tools and resources to help neighbors connect. To combat senior loneliness, it is essential for friends and family to understand the causes, signs, and effects of loneliness and social isolation as well as to have access to resources they can share with others.

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