Aging Alone

Janet Adamy, The Loneliest Generation: Americans, More Than Ever, Are Aging Alone, The Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2018

America Leads

Baby boomers are aging alone more than any generation in U.S. history, and the resulting loneliness is a looming public health threat. About one in 11 Americans age 50 and older lacks a spouse, partner or living child, census figures and other research show. That amounts to about eight million people in the U.S. without close kin, the main source of companionship in old age, and their share of the population is projected to grow.

Policy makers are concerned this will strain the federal budget and undermine baby boomers’ health. Researchers have found that loneliness takes a physical toll, and is as closely linked to early mortality as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day or consuming more than six alcoholic drinks a day.

Through the WI Lens

It is well known that the effect of loneliness is extraordinarily powerful and negative. As this article shows, social isolation undermines health and is linked to early mortality. US baby boomers are especially feeling the effects. They are aging alone more than any generation in American history, with their resulting loneliness becoming a looming public health threat. According to a study conducted by Harvard and Stanford Universities, the lack of social contacts among older adults costs Medicare USD 6.7 billion a year, mostly from spending on nursing facilities and hospitalization for those who have less of a network to help out.

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