Episode 110: Social Isolation and Loneliness

Social isolation can have harmful effects on health and often increases with age because of loss of friends, acquaintances, or a spouse, hearing or vision deficits, or loss of mobility. In addition to being a risk factor for poor health, social isolation has been associated with an increased risk of death. Loneliness may lead to poor sleep and depression, two problems that already affect a proportion of people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). On top of all this, for more than a year social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19 has added to problems of mental and physical health for many people.

In the face of a lack of research on social isolation in PD, Dr. Indu Subramanian, Director of the Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Center at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center, conducted a survey of people with Parkinson’s to see if social isolation is associated with the severity of their symptoms and with their quality of life.

The survey was done before the pandemic. It showed that people reporting loneliness had 55% higher symptom severity, but individuals with a lot of friends had 21% fewer symptoms as compared with people reporting having few or no friends. (These are associations, and one should not assume a cause-and-effect relationship.) These results support the need for people with Parkinson’s to be socially engaged to prevent loneliness. In this podcast, Dr. Subramanian discusses loneliness and social isolation and offers suggestions for keeping them at bay.

Released: August 10, 2021

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