Loneliness and social isolation are not merely a source of sadness for many older adults. Studies have shown that isolation increases the risk of mental and physical illnesses. In fact, the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to the AARP Foundation.

“Social isolation is a potent killer,” said James Lubben, a professor at Boston College School of Social Work. “We need to start taking it much more seriously.”

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