Studies consistently show that social isolation is associated with greater health risks and premature death. More recently, a longitudinal study funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) found that social isolation contributes to increased healthcare costs and spending per long-term care resident.1
Using nationally-representative data from the Health and Retirement Study and Medicare claims data, researchers at Stanford University and AARP’s Public Policy Institute found that monthly costs for older adults in skilled nursing facilities were $75 higher per person compared to their non-socially isolated counterparts.1 Annually, these increased costs add up to an estimated $6.7 billion in additional spending.1
The study also found that mortality risk was approximately 50% higher for older adults who were isolated.1 This finding confirms previous research linking social isolation to increased risk of death.2-3
These findings have implications for the senior living industry because social isolation has the ability to indirectly influence budget, occupancy, quality of care, and a number of other related factors. Senior communities can apply this important research about social isolation to increase efforts to engage residents in meaningful ways, identify those at risk of isolation, and implement interventions that can successfully alleviate this burdensome epidemic. In doing so, communities will be more likely to achieve the outcomes they continuously strive for.
- Flowers, L., Houser, A., Noel-Miller, C., Shaw, J., Bhattacharya, J., Schoemaker, L., & Farid, M. (2017). Medicare spends more on socially isolated older adults. Insight on the Issues, 125.
- Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 227-237.
- Steptoe, A., Shankar, A., Demakakos, P., & Wardle, J. (2013). Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(15), 5797-5801.