Much has been written, including at my keyboard, of the benefits that senior living communities can offer older adults who may be at risk of loneliness and isolation.
A recent national survey by Cigna puts more data behind the argument. The health services company, with market research firm Ipsos, surveyed more than 20,000 U.S. adults aged 18 or more years online earlier this year. Americans who live with others, they found, are less likely to be lonely that those who live alone, based on respondents’ scores on the 20-item UCLA Loneliness Scale questionnaire.
Forty-six percent of respondents reported sometimes or always feeling alone, and 43% said they sometimes or always feel isolated from others. What might surprise you however, is that older adults weren’t the generation reporting feeling the most lonely.
Generation Z — those aged 18 to 22 years — is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations, according to the researchers. (And before you blame social media, results showed that very heavy users of social media had loneliness scores that were not markedly different from the scores of those who never use social media.)
So you may wish to add employees to the list of potential beneficiaries when you’re thinking of solutions to address loneliness and isolation.
“There is an inherent link between loneliness and the workplace, with employers in a unique position to be a critical part of the solution,” Douglas Nemecek, M.D., chief medical officer for behavioral health at Cigna, said in a statement. “Fortunately, these results clearly point to the benefits meaningful, in-person connections can have on loneliness, including those in the workplace.”
Indeed, the survey found that people who are less lonely have good relationships with their coworkers; are more likely to have regular, meaningful, in-person interactions; are in good overall physical and mental health; and have achieved balance in their daily activities.
That balance, according to Cigna, involves getting just the right mix — not too much and not too little — of sleep, work, socializing with friends and family, and “me time.”
When it comes to the workplace, those who say they work just the right amount are the least likely to be lonely — the loneliness score of those who work more than desired increases by just more than three points — whereas those who work less than desired showed a six-point increase in loneliness. Not surprisingly, Cigna said, those who report working less than desired are less likely to report having feelings associated with being less lonely (for example, feeling outgoing and friendly, feeling they have people they can talk to, etc.) compared with those who work more than desired.
So don’t forget your employees. And while you’re helping them with their physical, mental and social health, you also may have the added result of helping the health of your organization by addressing a source of lost productivity and increased healthcare costs.