Health and wellbeing consequences of social isolation in old age: a scoping study

Martin Knapp Completed   2014


This scoping study examined the available literature on the impact of social isolation and loneliness on physical health, mental health and wellbeing in old age.

Key findings included:

  • loneliness and social isolation are increasingly recognised as risk factors for poor health and reduced wellbeing. Almost all the studies reviewed found a detrimental effect of isolation or loneliness on health. Health risks associated with isolation and loneliness have been compared to the well-established detrimental effects of smoking and obesity;
  • depression and cardiovascular health are the most often researched outcomes, followed by wellbeing;
  • definition and measurement in this area both remain complex and contested. Causal links and mechanisms are difficult to demonstrate and further investigation is needed;
  • there is a paucity of research focusing on the health and social care use of isolated older people and interventions;
  • future research should aim to “connect the dots” between the literature on the risk factors for loneliness and social isolation and the research on their impact on health and wellbeing.