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03/25/2020

Dr. Dan Blazer Discusses the National Academy of Sciences Just-Published, "Social Isolation and Loneliness in Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System" (March 24th)

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Increasing social isolation and loneliness have been recognized for several decades.  The issues was the topic of Harvard’s Robert Putnam’s much publicized research three decades ago, i.e., his 2000 publication "Bowling Alone."   More recently, the Pope has observed “radical loneliness,” caused by a consumer culture is subverting social relationships.  In Japan, loneliness deaths among the elderly have become so common the Japanese have named the phenomenon, kodokushi (lonely death).  In the UK, former Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018 created the new cabinet position, Minister of Loneliness.   In the US, former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called loneliness a “growing health epidemic.”  

During this 32-minute conversation, Dr. Blazer begins by defining social isolation and loneliness or collectively social connections.  He then discusses the numerous associated adverse health effects including cardiovascular disease and dementia.  He discusses the current state of play regarding the extent to which the health care sector is addressing, social isolation in context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he notes several recommendations the report makes, discusses programming, and the scientific evidence for, that attempt to address these issues and potential problems associated with some of these interventions moreover use of technology.        

Dan G. Blazer II, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., is the J. P. Gibbons Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus and a professor of community and family medicine at Duke University as well as D014dac2e1-image_0770942adjunct professor in the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina.  He is the author or co-author of more than 180 books chapters, more than 220 published abstracts, and nearly 500 peer-reviewed articles.  He is also the editor or author of 40 books.  Many of the book chapters and scientific articles are on the topics of late life depression, epidemiology, consultation liaison psychiatry, the interface between religion and psychiatry, and the epidemiology of substance use disorders.  Most of his research projects have focused on the prevalence of physical and mental illness in the elderly.  He has served as the principal investigator (PI) of the Duke University Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly, the Piedmont Health Survey of the Elderly, and the MacArthur Field Studies of Successful Aging.  He also was the original PI of the Duke Clinical Research Center for the Study of Depression in Late Life.  Dr. Blazer is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine from which he received the Walsh McDermott Award for Distinguished Lifetime Service to the Academy.

The NAS report is at: https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/the-health-and-medical-dimensions-of-social-isolation-and-loneliness-in-older-adults.

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