New poll finds many US adults feel lonely | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

elderly woman
A new poll has found that many American adults report feeling lonely and lacking companionship. Image: Dmitry Berkut /

A new U.S. poll has revealed that as many as a quarter of U.S. adults feel isolated at least some of the time, with those who have health issues feeling even lonelier than those who rate their wellbeing more highly.

elderly woman
A new poll has found that many American adults report feeling lonely and lacking companionship. Image: Dmitry Berkut /

The National Poll on Healthy Aging, carried out by researchers at the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center, was administered to 2,051 American adults aged 50 to 80 years.

Participants were asked about their overall physical and mental health, their feelings of loneliness, isolation, and contact with friends and family, as well more specific questions about health such as diet, exercise, and whether they wear a hearing aid.

The findings showed that one in four felt isolated from others at some point, with a third reporting that they lack regular companionship.

Moreover, those who reported poor or fair physical or mental health, had an unhealthier lifestyle, and who wore a hearing aid were more likely to report being lonely or lacking companions than those who said they ate healthy diets, exercised, got enough sleep or didn’t smoke.

Specifically, 26 percent of respondents who said they lacked companionship also reported being in fair or poor physical health, compared to 13 percent of those who said they hardly ever lacked companionship. 17 percent of those who felt isolated had fair or poor mental health, compared to just 2 percent of those who hardly ever felt isolated.

In addition, one in five of those who reported feeling isolated said they had fair or poor hearing, compared to around one in 10 of those who said they hardly ever feel isolated.

Those who were unemployed, lived in lower-income households, lived alone and/or had one or more children living with them were also more likely to say they lacked companionship, while 60 percent of those living alone reported feeling a lack of companionship, and 41 percent felt isolated.

“More than a quarter of poll respondents said they only had social contact once a week, or less, with family members they don’t live with, or with friends and neighbors,” said Erica Solway, PhD, co-director of the poll. “These results indicate the importance of proactively reaching out to those in your community who may be at risk of feeling isolated and disconnected, especially those with or at risk of health issues.”

Poll director Preeti Malani, MD, noted that there is growing evidence to suggest that health and loneliness are connected, and that reducing loneliness through volunteering, taking part in religious or community groups, and other activities can positively impact health.

“As we grow older, and mobility or hearing becomes more of a barrier, the poll data show the importance of maintaining and strengthening our ties to other people,” said Malani. “It also suggests that caregivers, spouses and partners, adult children and others involved in older adults’ lives have a role to play in encouraging and facilitating these connections.” NVG


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