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AARP Backs Bill That Aims to Address Loneliness Epidemic

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En español | Loneliness isn’t just bad for your mental health. Research shows feeling isolated can put you at higher risk for a host of physical ailments – from heart disease and stroke to diabetes, infections and dementia. The U.S. Surgeon General warned this year that social disconnection can shorten your life about as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

It’s also costly for taxpayers. A lack of social contacts among older adults is associated with an additional $6.7 billion in Medicare spending annually, according to a 2017 AARP study.

That’s why AARP wrote to lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate this month endorsing federal legislation to help quantify the problem, calling it “an important step” toward addressing the nation’s loneliness epidemic.

The Improving Measurements for Loneliness and Isolation Act would establish a working group to recommend ways to standardize the measurement of loneliness and isolation. The legislation is in line with a recommendation from U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy who issued an advisory about the problem earlier this year.

AARP has long worked to raise awareness about and provide support for socially isolated older adults. AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect, for example, lets you take an assessment to see if you or a loved one are experiencing social isolation and helps you find resources and support in your area.

Read our letters to the House and Senate, and learn more about low-cost ways to deal with isolation and loneliness.

Natalie Missakian covers federal and state policy and writes AARP’s Fighting for You Every Day blog. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Haven Register and daily newspapers in Ohio. Her work has also appeared in the AARP Bulletin, the Hartford Business Journal and other publications.

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