Social isolation can lead to poor mental and physical health outcomes including depression, diabetes, cognitive decline, high blood pressure and heart disease. Many of these health disparities affect African American communities at higher rates.
There are also factors that aside from loneliness that may lead to social isolation including race-related stress. This occurs when an individual experiences or witnesses’ racists incidents that may evoke social and historical experiences of racism. For older African Americans, race-related stress can accumulate over a lifetime and may lead to both a distrust in health care service providers and an increase in social isolation.
As a result of this history, minorities are less likely to utilize formal healthcare services and are at higher risk of social isolation. This hesitation to seek out these traditional types of services only heightens the importance of support organizations like Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana/Partners in Nutrition Indiana.
The New York Times reports that “in older people who reported they felt left out, isolated or lacked companionship, the ability to perform daily activities like preparing meals declined.” Our mission not only addresses, the benefits of our services go beyond the medically-tailored meals that help our clients’ nutritional needs. Our volunteers also deliver care, compassion and the human contact our clients desire through our wellness checks. They are the eyes and ears in the home of the most vulnerable in our community. We are often able to identify risks before they become problems and help to address problems before they become catastrophic and costly.
While it is not certain whether the harmful effects of social isolation can be reversed, if we recognize social connections as a fundamental human need, then we can’t discount the risks of being socially isolated even if people don’t feel lonely.
National Institute on Aging: Social Isolation, Loneliness in Older People Pose Health Risks: https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks
American Psychological Association; African American Older Adults and Race-Related Stress: How Again and Health-Care Providers Can Help: https://www.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/african-american-stress.pdf