Social isolation – a measure of an individual’s social contact and networks, is detrimental to health and well-being. Two researchers (Berkman and Syme) developed the “Social Network Index, a summary measure of social isolation derived from several components:
- Marital status
- Participation in church groups and other groups
- Number and frequency of contact with close friends/relatives
They found that men and women who were the most isolated had 2.3-fold and 2.8-fold higher risks of premature mortality, respectively, than the least isolated. The study also showed that black women were the most likely to be unmarried; black men and black women were the most likely to have few close friends/relatives; white men were the most likely to attend religious services infrequently, and black men and white men were the most likely to participate in clubs/groups infrequently.
Overall, race seemed to be a stronger predictor of social isolation score than sex, as both white men and white women were more likely to be in the least isolated category. Bottom line, here we are in the midst of a pandemic where we are socially isolated as are our residents. The study is worth reviewing but at the end of the day, being aware and making efforts to address the risk is key. Talk to your residents, observe their reactions, watch for physical and cognitive declines and get everyone vaccinated! Stay the course, mask up, get vaccinated, and stay tuned!