AARP Foundation Survey Finds Positive Feelings Associated With Holidays but Also Concern for Family Members Who May Feel Lonely

WASHINGTON, DCA survey released today by AARP Foundation finds that people are feeling good about spending time with friends and family this holiday season, with many survey respondents noting that they are feeling happy (67%), loved (47%), joyful (46%) and excited (44%).

Yet the same survey also finds that three-in-ten respondents (31%) say they have felt lonely during past holiday seasons. In addition, four-in-ten (41%) respondents say they have worried about a friend or family member feeling lonely during the holidays.

The survey was released by AARP Foundation in support of Connect2Affect, AARP Foundation’s ongoing effort to build awareness about the impact of loneliness and social isolation that also includes resources created to help people learn about how they can stay connected.

“The survey results do give cause for concern,” said AARP Foundation President Lisa Marsh Ryerson. “Social isolation, which can be particularly hard felt during the holidays, has severe consequences on both emotional and physical well-being. Research shows the health effects of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

Strong social connections are fundamental to physical and mental health, with recent research finding that loneliness and social isolation are growing, and may represent a greater public health hazard than obesity. U.S. Census data shows that more than a quarter of the U.S. population is living alone, with isolation affecting more than 8 million older adults in the U.S.

Fortunately, opportunities to connect with each other appear to be greater during the holiday season. Thirty-four percent of AARP Foundation survey respondents say they experience more kindness from strangers during the holidays, with 60% of respondents saying they experience the same level of kindness.

Led by AARP Foundation, in collaboration with the Gerontological Society of America, Give an Hour, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and UnitedHealth Group, Connect2Affect features tools and resources to help evaluate isolation risk and find practical ways to reconnect with the community. Connect2Affect also provides visitors with access to a self-assessment test that asks yes or no questions relating to relationships, mobility and major life changes.

For more information about the holiday survey, social isolation and Connect2Affect, please visit connect2affect.org.

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About AARP Foundation
AARP Foundation works to ensure that low-income older adults have nutritious food, affordable, livable and healthy housing, a steady income, and strong and sustaining bonds. We collaborate with individuals and organizations who share our commitment to innovation and our passion for problem-solving. Supported by vigorous legal advocacy, we create and advance effective solutions that help struggling older adults transform their lives. AARP Foundation is the affiliated charity of AARP. Learn more at aarpfoundation.org.

About the Survey Methodology
Survey results are from an online survey of 1,005 adults age 18 and over, and was fielded from November 10-12, 2017 as part of GfK’s US Omnibus survey. The sample was drawn from the GfK KnowledgePanel, a probability-based online survey panel representing the US adult population. The margin of error was +/- 3.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Data was weighted by gender, age, education, race/ethnicity, household income, and region to reflect US adults age 18 and over.

Income Plays a Role in Older Adults’ Happiness, According to New AARP Foundation Study

WASHINGTON — In a new study funded by AARP Foundation, researchers from NORC at the University of Chicago found that nearly half of older adults (62 and older) in the United States experience some degree of loneliness. What’s more, lonely adults are more likely to have lower income and fewer assets than their non-lonely peers.

The study is part of Connect2Affect, a collaborative effort spearheaded by AARP Foundation to learn more about the effects of isolation and loneliness in older adults. Using data obtained with support from the National Institute on Aging and the National Institutes of Health, the researchers examined the frequency of loneliness among older adults in the U.S. and identified the characteristics that indicate a high risk.

“The results of this study make it clear that income is a significant factor in social connectedness said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation. “We need more research examining the effects of loneliness and social isolation on low-income older adults and other, often marginalized groups so that we can develop effective strategies to increase social connections.”

Nearly half (48 percent) of the respondents feel some degree of loneliness. According to the study, 29 percent experience “occasional” loneliness while 19 percent define their level of loneliness as “frequent.” Socioeconomic status stands out as a differentiator between non-lonely and lonely individuals. Lonely older adults are significantly more likely to have an annual household income of less than $25,000 and assets less than $10,000, and are more likely overall to be in the lowest income group.

Marital status is another strong indicator of loneliness. Both married and unmarried older adults can be lonely — but the lonely group is less likely to be married than the non-lonely group, and more likely to be divorced, separated or widowed. The data show that 14 percent of married older adults and 30 percent of unmarried older adults fall into the lonely group. Married women are at a higher risk of loneliness than married men, but unmarried women are at a lower risk of loneliness than unmarried men.

Marital quality further distinguishes between lonely and non-lonely married older adults. Those with more support and less strain in their marital relationship are at lower risk of loneliness.

The Connect2Affect website includes a searchable directory where users can find local resources to help them connect with their community. The site also includes a fast, easy self-assessment test to identify isolation risk.

For more information about social isolation, loneliness and the Connect2Affect platform, please visit connect2affect.org.

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About Connect2Affect

AARP Foundation is developing innovative ways to address social isolation through Connect2Affect, a platform to help end isolation and build the social connections older adults need to thrive. A collaborative effort, Connect2Affect (connect2affect.org) features research, tools and resources to help people evaluate isolation risk, reach out to others who may be feeling lonely and disengaged, and find practical ways to reconnect to the community.

About AARP Foundation

AARP Foundation works to ensure that low-income older adults have nutritious food, affordable housing, a steady income, and strong and sustaining bonds. We collaborate with individuals and organizations who share our commitment to innovation and our passion for problem-solving. Supported by vigorous legal advocacy, we create and advance effective solutions that help struggling older adults transform their lives. AARP Foundation is the affiliated charity of AARP.

AARP Foundation Draws Attention to Social Isolation with the Launch of Connect2Affect

WASHINGTON — AARP Foundation recently announced the launch of Connect2Affect, a response to the growing epidemic of isolation affecting more than 8 million older adults. The goal of Connect2Affect is to create a network that not only builds awareness about social isolation and its impact, but also identifies solutions.

Strong social connections are fundamental to physical and mental well-being. But recent research shows that the negative health consequences of chronic isolation and loneliness, while harmful at any age, are especially so for older adults. According to a study published last year in Perspectives on Psychological Science, the health effects of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. An earlier report found that subjective feelings of loneliness can increase the risk of death by anywhere from 26 percent to 45 percent.

“Social isolation is a complex problem, one that desperately needs our attention,” said AARP Foundation President Lisa Marsh Ryerson. “With Connect2Affect, we want to encourage new research, create a deeper understanding of loneliness and isolation, and identify innovative solutions to help adults age 50 and older build the social connections they need to thrive.”

Spearheaded by AARP Foundation, in collaboration with the Gerontological Society of America, Give an Hour, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and UnitedHealth Group, Connect2Affect features tools and resources to help evaluate isolation risk, reach out to others who may be feeling lonely and disconnected, and find practical ways to reconnect to the community. Content on the website, connect2affect.org, is drawn from leading voices such as the American Society on Aging, Boston College, Huffington Post and many more.

Connect2Affect’s online tool includes a fast, easy self-assessment test that asks yes or no questions relating to relationships, mobility and major life changes. The assessment, which will continue to evolve as new findings on social isolation emerge, can be taken at any age — giving users the opportunity to consider how they want to age and the types of relationships they want to have as they get older.

For more information about social isolation and the Connect2Affect platform, please visit connect2affect.org.

About AARP Foundation

AARP Foundation works to ensure that low-income older adults have nutritious food, affordable housing, a steady income, and strong and sustaining bonds. We collaborate with individuals and organizations who share our commitment to innovation and our passion for problem-solving. Supported by vigorous legal advocacy, we create and advance effective solutions that help struggling older adults transform their lives. AARP Foundation is the affiliated charity of AARP.