By Angela Cortez
Special to The PREVIEW
A survey released by the 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 percent), loved (47 percent), joyful (46 percent) and excited (44 percent).
Yet the same survey also finds that three in 10 respondents say they have felt lonely during past holiday seasons. In addition, four in 10 respondents say they have worried about a friend or family member feeling lonely during the holidays.
The survey was released by the AARP Foundation in support of Connect2Affect, the 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 percent 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.
By Angela Cortez