COVID-19: Addressing Loneliness During Social Distancing

posted by AHIP

on March 13, 2020

Millions of Americans are working from home as part of the nationwide fight to limit the spread of COVID-19. Such a widespread shift may exacerbate feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Americans suffering from loneliness and social isolation are 30% more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than individuals with strong support networks, and all age ranges are affected.

Health insurance providers have been focused on addressing the effects of social isolation and will continue to implement innovative programs to support Americans during these uncertain times.

Younger Americans may be especially at risk to loneliness and social isolation as the transition to working from home continues. A 2020 study from Cigna found that 79% of Generation Z (18-22 years old) and 71% of millennials reported feeling lonely, compared with only 50% of baby boomers. And 61% of all Americans reported feelings of loneliness, the Cigna study discovered.

Successful programs range from making regular check-in phone calls to enrollees to utilizing technology like Skype and Facetime to connect individuals with far-flung family members. The goal is to increase an individual’s sense of connection with the outside world, and health insurance providers are investing in solutions that can be tailored to the specific needs of enrollees.

AHIP has a number of resources that can help, including:

  • AHIP’s issue brief on social isolation and loneliness
  • A blog post on the health impact of social isolation and loneliness, with examples of how some health insurance providers are addressing that impact
  • A blog post on one health insurance provider’s efforts to help people affected by social isolation and loneliness in Michigan
  • A blog post on how social isolation and loneliness can increase inpatient and emergency room use
  • A blog post on one plan’s work to connect patients with supportive social networks