Increasing evidence suggests that perceived social isolation or loneliness is a major risk factor for physical and mental illness in later life. This review assesses the status of research on loneliness and health in older adults. Key concepts and definitions of loneliness are identified, and the prevalence, correlates, and health effects of loneliness in older individuals are reviewed. Theoretical mechanisms that underlie the association between loneliness and health are also described, and illustrative studies examining these mechanisms are summarized. Intervention approaches to reduce loneliness in old age are highlighted, and priority recommendations for future research are presented.
© 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel.