Health providers are taking a serious look at loneliness because of the health implications. A new program from CareMore Health that tackles loneliness has shown positive health outcomes after 12 months.
Loneliness can have such a strong impact on the emotional well-being of seniors that it is being taken seriously by health providers as a new potential epidemic. CareMore Health announced in May 2017 that it was tackling loneliness, which can increase the risk of Alzheimer disease, stroke, obesity, and premature death in America’s seniors. Now, the delivery system is releasing results from its Togetherness Program and how it has succeeded in treating senior loneliness.
The program, which focuses on patients’ psychological, social, and physical health, enrolled 1000 patients through outreach by social workers and volunteer associate phone pals.
“As studies reveal that senior loneliness can increase a person’s risk of mortality—more than air pollution, obesity and excessive alcohol use—it is more important than ever that we come together to exchange ideas and discuss solutions,” Sachin Jain, MD, president of CareMore, said in a statement.
The results released by CareMore are preliminary based on 12 months of utilization. However, the results so far have shown positive health outcomes. For instance, enrollees have increased participation in exercise programs by 56.6% compared with people not involved in the Togetherness Program.
The program also reduced emergency department (ED) utilization—enrolled participants decreased ED use by 3.3% compared with their baseline. In comparison, ED use increased 20.3% among the intent-to-treat population. Also, hospital admissions per thousand members were 20.8% lower among participants in the program compared with the intent-to-treat population.
“We are excited by the outcomes of our Togetherness program and know that our model is the blueprint for how others in the industry can help improve the lives of our nation’s seniors,” Jain said.
Loneliness and its impact on health has been gaining more attention. In September 2017, former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, highlighted the issue in a Harvard Business Review article. At the beginning of 2018, the United Kingdom’s government announced it would lead efforts to decrease loneliness, with Prime Minister Theresa May making it a priority.
A study in International Psychogeriatrics recently highlighted the epidemic of loneliness1 with research that showed there are 3 age periods when loneliness was particularly acute: late 20s, mid 50s, and late 80s. The individuals studied did not have serious physical or psychological ailments, and the study did not include people living in nursing homes or who required substantial living assistance.
“This is noteworthy because the participants in this study were not considered to be at high risk for moderate to severe loneliness. They didn’t have major physical disorders. Nor did they suffer from significant mental illnesses such as depression or schizophrenia, in which you might expect loneliness to be problematic,” Dilip Jeste, MD, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and director of the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging, said in a statement. “Though there were clear demographic limitations to the group, these participants were, generally speaking, regular people.”
1. Lee EE, Depp C, Palmer BW, et al. High prevalence and adverse health effects of loneliness in community-dwelling adults across the lifespan: role of wisdom as a protective factor [published online December 18, 2018]. Int Psychogeriatr. doi: 10.1017/S1041610218002120.