What Impact Can Isolation Have?


A sense of belonging and purpose is important to a good quality of life.

According to several national studies, older people who have regular social contacts and close relationships live longer, cope better with health conditions such as heart problems, and have less depression and anxiety. Isolation over a period of time can reduce your quality of life.

The following areas in your life can be affected by isolation:

  • Mental Health. Isolation can cause or worsen significant mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, low self-worth, a lack of purpose, and/or hopelessness. These emotional difficulties, in turn, can create deeper isolation further reducing the likelihood of professional assistance or recovery.


  • Physical Health. Whether coping with a chronic medical problem or an emergency medical crisis, the support and companionship of another person can help with recovery. For example, a support person can help make phone calls to doctors, get prescriptions filled and renewed, assist with managing medical bills, and help alleviate fears that may arise from having health problems. When isolated, there are fewer people on whom to rely, and this then jeopardizes the older person’s health.


  • Functional Abilities. The ability to do things for oneself may become limited due to health problems. A support system can help provide assistance with activities such as food shopping, coordinating help in the home, or assisting during a time of illness. It may be difficult to maintain independent living without such a support system. Thus, older individuals experiencing isolation are at increased risk of nursing home placement.


How Can I Tell If I Am Isolated?

What is Social and Emotional Isolation?

How Does Isolation Happen?

What Can I Do to Reduce or Eliminate Isolation?



This resource provides brief, general information about this topic. It does not take the place of specific instructions you may receive from health care or service providers. Copyright NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital 2006. All rights reserved