Position Statement 4
A wide range of risk factors leave people vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation
Social disconnection (being isolated or feeling lonely) has multiple risk factors that vary from person to person, and reflect individual experiences and preferences. These risk factors include (but are not limited to) a wide variety of biological (e.g., sensory impairment), psychological (e.g., mental health difficulties), social (e.g., economic disadvantage, low civic engagement and trust), cultural (e.g., membership in a stigmatized group, racial minority) and environmental (e.g., poor transport) issues, as well as a host of significant life changes (e.g., becoming a parent, leaving school). Loneliness and social isolation can affect anyone but disproportionately affect some groups, sectors and places in our communities, placing some people at higher risk of inequalities in health and wellbeing.
4.1 Awareness campaigns should increase public understanding of the broad range of risk factors that increase vulnerability to loneliness and social isolation across the lifespan
4.2 Training in social health and wellbeing, their associated risk factors and management, should be mandatory for health professionals and social care providers
4.3 Consistent policies for robust assessment of risk of loneliness and social isolation at the local level need to be developed, so that resources can be delivered proportionate to need
4.4 Researchers need to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms linking risk factors to the emergence of social isolation and loneliness. Studies examining how these mechanisms vary across culture, race, gender identity, and health status also need prioritizing to advance equality in social wellbeing for all members of the community.
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