According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) social determinants of health are the non-medical factors that influence health. They are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live and age. It’s believed that 40% of health outcomes are influenced by social and economic factors, or social determinants of health, one of which is social and community context. This captures social isolation and loneliness. Both have impacts on medical, behavioral, and social well-being but are often neglected or minimized in someone’s health care journey; however, research has linked social connection and the risk of developing certain health conditions, the course of those conditions, and quality of life.
As we enter the holiday season, and look ahead to the new year, it’s a good time to consider social connectedness. For some, the holiday season is a joyous time of year. For others, it may be a difficult reminder of what was lost or changed during the past year. A recent loss, a change in physical or mental health, or limited resources could increase feelings of loneliness or social isolation. It can also compound those feelings for those who already lack social and community support.
Consider the following as we enter the holiday season and remember that social connectedness can come in many forms:
- Practice self-care: Find time to take care of yourself. Enjoy a special meal, a holiday movie, an enjoyable book, an activity or hobby. Even if done alone, find joy in simple acts that focus on yourself.
- Redefine the holiday: If a recent loss or health care change limits the ability to enjoy the holidays in the same way, use this as an opportunity to redefine what the holiday means. Identify a new tradition or create new expectations for the holiday season. Though they may look or feel different find meaning and create connectedness through a new tradition.
- Give back: Create connections by sharing time with others. This can be done in person through volunteer opportunities or participation in faith or community groups. It can also be done virtually. Send holiday greetings to others that may also feel social isolation or loneliness. Consider visiting assisted living facilities. Recognize you are not alone. Others may be experiencing similar feelings, and this simple act can create connection.
- Speak with a health care provider: Everyone experiences loneliness, loss, or a difficult day at some time; however persistent or reoccurring feelings could be an indication of something more. Speak with a health care provider. Remember that good health care is inclusive of physical, behavioral, and social care.
At ConcertoCare we believe seniors and other adults with complex health care needs deserve a holistic, equitable, compassionate approach to health and wellness. We believe that health care extends beyond medical care. We universally screen for depression and anxiety as well as unmet social determinants of health with a goal of proactively addressing needs and improving the health care journey inclusive of medical, behavioral, and social needs.