Patients report feeling lonely and isolated in hospital settings.  Older patients are quite often placed in side rooms, they are restricted due to infection  and these can be very long boring days.

Social isolation has been shown to have a detrimental effect on health and well-being*. Both isolation and loneliness impair quality of life and well-being.

However, only social isolation (and not loneliness) has been shown to be associated with increased mortality**.

Depression is associated with loneliness and social isolation.

Lonely and isolated elderly people are at risk of nutritional problems.

A review found that educational and social activity group interventions that target specific groups of people can alleviate social isolation and loneliness among older people. The effectiveness of home visiting and befriending schemes was unclear***.

Wherever possible, lonely people should be offered opportunities to reach out to others so that they retain active involvement in the pattern of their own lives, rather than sitting passively.  Lonely people may need encouragement and guidance on how to be creative and how to have a positive approach to meeting others:

The technology offers the opportunity to become involved in group activities with other patients and can elicit conversation with them around similarities in they may have shared in their lives, their preferences and memories.   The opportunity to engage in group activities is stimulating and can provide more interest around mealtimes.

Further Reading

National Institute for Health & Care Excellence – Social Isolation

*Interventions targeting social isolation in older people: a systematic review

**Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women