How increased social distancing for the coronavirus could spur a loneliness epidemic

“While the implementation of social distancing — avoiding large gatherings and maintaining a distance from others — is crucial to preventing the coronavirus pandemic from intensifying, the practice could also cause a “social recession,” or a collapse in social contact that especially affects populations who are most susceptible to loneliness and isolation, like the elderly, according to Vox.

Nearly one fifth of US healthcare leaders plan to address social isolation in the next 12 months

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The elderly are already vulnerable to loneliness as a social determinant of health (SDOH), and social distancing could exacerbate social isolation — and its negative implications on overall health — among this segment. For context, SDOH refers to health-influencing factors outside clinical settings — such as loneliness and access to transportation — that drive 80% of health outcomes.

And loneliness has proven to exacerbate health complications among the elderly: For example, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released a report suggesting seniors who experience social isolation or loneliness may face a higher risk of conditions including heart disease, depression, and mortality. And with the CDC advising older adults to “avoid crowds” and “stay home as much as possible” to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus, seniors’ feelings of isolation could grow — and poor health outcomes driven and compounded by loneliness could cause insurers’ spending on members to rise.”