Elderly Social Isolation

Elderly Social Isolation

Face-to-face contact shown to be VITAL at ATSA 2018 Conference

Key Points

  • Only FACE-TO-FACE contact, 3 times a week, specifically with family & friends, reduces elderly social isolation and halves depression risk (1)
  • Older adults who use video chat such as Skype, but not other common communication technologies, also have lower depression risk (1b(added 2019!)
  • US study: Daily face-to-face video calls improve elderly cognitive function, suggested as dementia prevention / treatment (1c
  • UK study: Video calls may slow memory decline, with or without regular visits (1d(2021)
  • UK study 2: Social visits and 2 activities may decrease dementia risk (1e(2022)
  • 82% of elderly are willing to try video communication, which would likely help prevent depression (2)
  • About 20% of elderly are socially isolated, and most (52%) of those in Aged Care have at least one symptom of depression (3)
  • Social Isolation and loneliness are linked to higher blood pressure, poor sleep, dementia, depression and mortality rates (4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
  • As a health risk, social isolation is worse than smoking (9)
  • A dedicated video phone solves the app, device and portability challenges of video calling for the socially isolated
  • Wi-Fi strength, uplink speed and Internet choice are critical to high-quality video calling
  • Occupational Therapists are recommending video calling for their clients with any of 3 key needs
  • Key needs: the social isolated; those whose carers want to check-in visually; those struggling with phones or tablets but wanting greater independence
  • A dedicated video phone such as the Konnekt increases independence and contact with loved ones, and complements safety solutions

ATSA 2018 Conference Paper

Face-to-Face Contact for the Socially Isolated Elderly or Disabled: Breakthrough Technologies and Case Study Insights
– John Nakulski, Co-Founder, Konnekt

Social Isolation, Dementia and Depression – What to Do

Konnekt Videophone - Communication With Loved Ones

Related Social Isolation Articles

Independent living solutions

Staying connected with elderly during isolation

References and Links to Research

Journals with Articles about Social Isolation

Elderly Social Isolation and Loneliness – Results of Research and Studies

  1. Lack of Face-to-Face Contact doubles Incidence of Depression
    Study of 11,000 older adults concludes face-to-face contact, 3 times per week, specifically with family / friends, reduces social isolation, halves depression risk. Derived gains endure years later. However, phone conversations, written communication, and contact with others (non family / friends) had no measurable impact. 
    Dr. Alan Teo Professor Oregon Health and Science University, Face-to-face socializing more powerful than phone calls, emails in guarding against depression in older adults, OHSU Research Paper 2015-10; also published as A. R. Teo et al, Does Mode of Contact with Different Types of Social Relationships Predict Depression in Older Adults?, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, vol. 63, no. 10, pp. 2014-2022, 2015.
    – – –
    1b. Video Chat such as Skype reduces Depression Risk (2019)
    Over 1,400 seniors participated. Those using face-to-face calls had about half the probability of depression symptoms. Those who used only non-video communications showed no reduction in depressive symptoms. Authors conclude that older adults who use video chat such as Skype have a lower risk of developing depression.
    A.R. Teo, S. Markwardt, L. Hinton, Using Skype to Beat the Blues: Longitudinal Data from a National Representative Sample, American Journal of Geriatric Psychology, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 254-262, 2019.
    – – –
    1c. Daily Video Conversation improves Brain Power
    User-friendly face-to-face calls improved cognitive function in those with and without dementia, suggested as dementia prevention and intervention/treatment.
    H. Dodge, J. Zhu, N. Mattek, M. Bowman, O. Ybarra, K. Wild, D. Loewenstein, J. Kaye, Web-enabled conversational interactions as a method to improve cognitive functions: Results of a 6-week randomized controlled trial, Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-12, 2015.
    – – –

    1d. UK study: Video Calling may Slow Memory Decline (2021)
    A study of over 11,000 older adults showed that both people with and without hearing loss benefit cognitively (improved memory) from online communication.
    S. Raffnson, A. Maharani, G. Tampubolon, Social Contact Mode and 15-Year Episodic Memory Trajectories in Older Adults With and Without Hearing Loss, The Journals of Gerontology, vol. 77, no. 1, pp. 10-17, 2022.
    – – –
    1e. UK study 2: Social Visits and 2 Activities may Decrease Dementia Risk (2022)
    A study by Sichuan University and the National Clinical Research Center for Geriatrics of over 5,000 UK adults showed that those with more frequent social visits were less likely to have dementia up to 11 years later. Chores and exercise were also associated with a lower incidence of dementia.
    J.Zhu et al, Physical and Mental Activity, Disease Susceptibility, and Risk of Dementia: A Prospective Cohort Study Based on UK Biobank. Neurology Journal, 99 (8), Aug 2022.
  2. Elderly would like Video Calling
    82% of surveyed elderly are willing to try video communication.
    D. Meyer, T. Marx and V. Ball-Seiter, Social isolation and telecommunication in the nursing home: A pilot study, Gerontechnology, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 51-58, 2011. 
  3. Most elderly are Depressed
    Over half (52%) of people in residential aged care have symptoms of depression.
    Authors, Depression in residential aged care 2008–2012, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Aged care statistics series, no. 39, cat. no. AGE 73, Canberra: AIHW, 2013. 
  4. Loneliness linked to Heart Disease
    Systolic Blood Pressure was 14.4 mm worse after 4 years between the least and most lonely.
    L. C. Hawkley and J. T. Cacioppo, Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, vol. 40, no. 2, 2010. 
  5. Loneliness linked to Poor Sleep
    Loneliness predicts fragmented sleep to within 99% certainty. Study used polysomnography.
    L. M. Kurina, K. L. Knutson, L. C. Hawkley, J. T. Cacioppo, D. S. Lauderdale and C. Ober, Loneliness Is Associated with Sleep Fragmentation in a Communal Society, SLEEP, vol. 34, no. 11, pp. 1519-1526, 2011.
  6. Loneliness linked to Dementia
    Study of 2,173 non-demented community-living elderly. After just 3 yrs, those who had expressed feelings of loneliness had greater dementia incidence. Conclusion: Loneliness is a major risk factor deserving clinical attention.
    T. J. Holwerda, D. J. Deeg, A. T. Beekman, T. G. van Tilburg, M. L. Stek, C. Jonker and R. A. Schoevers, Feelings of loneliness, but not social isolation, predict dementia onset: results from the Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (AMSTEL), J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry, vol. 85, no. 2, pp. 135-142, Feb 2014.
  7. Lack of social interaction linked to Depression
    Meta-study statistically combined multiple studies. Results: Social interaction / befriending decreases depression symptoms in the short term (less than 12 months) and long term (over 1 year).
    N. Mead, H. Lester, C. Chew-Graham, L. Gask and P. Bower, Effects of befriending on depressive symptoms and distress: systematic review and meta-analysis, Br J Psychiatry, pp. 96-101, Feb 2010.
  8. Social Isolation linked to Mortality
    Approx. 6,500 adults aged over 52 years old from the 2004-5 UK longitudinal study of Ageing were reviewed 8 years later, in Mar 2012. Those with a larger social network and greater contact had about half the mortality rate (12.3% vs 21.9%).
    A. Steptoe, A. Shankar, P. Demakakos and J. Wardle, Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, vol. 110, no. 15, pp. 5797-5801, 2013.
  9. Social Isolation worse than Smoking, Obesity…
    Meta-study of 148 studies, 308,849 people. The absence of supportive social relationships is equivalent, as a risk factor, to the health effects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Over 7.5 years, individuals with adequate social relationships have a 50% greater likelihood of survival; comparable to quitting smoking or drinking, and greater than the health risk of obesity or physical inactivity. Author note: Decades ago, medical profession found that infants would die without social interaction.
    J. Holt-Lunstad, T. Smith and J. Bradley Layton, Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review, Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine, July 27, 2010.
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