IUPUI Loneliness and Social Isolation Presentation Outline

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Loneliness and Social Isolation CQ Researcher • Aug. 3, 2018 • www.cqresearcher.com Volume 28, Number 28 • Pages 657-680 Do they pose a growing health epidemic? By Christina L. Lyons Adapted from: http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre2018080300 Introduction Paula Dutton experienced a series of life changes that reduced the number of close friends and relatives she could turn to: a cross-country move from her hometown of Philadelphia to Los Angeles, a divorce, the death of both parents. Then she retired. Suddenly she was alone. Anxiety and depression set in. “I worked myself into a frenzy in my loneliness,” Dutton said. After she had a panic attack and called the doctor, she realized her loneliness might be affecting her health. Then, she joined a church and began connecting with a community, and she felt calmer. Who is lonely and why? Dutton's story is far from unusual. Nearly half of Americans say they “always” or “sometimes” feel alone or left out, and nearly one-fifth feel they have no one to turn to, according to a study released in May 2018 by Cigna (a global health insurance company). Young adults ages 18 to 22 were slightly more likely to report feeling lonely than those in other age groups. In addition, about half of those who reported feeling lonely said they were in “fair” or “poor” health. “Loneliness is a growing health epidemic” in the United States, affecting “people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds,” former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared last year. And the loneliness problem is not confined to the United States. Countries such as Japan, China, and South Korea report similar problems. In January 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May appointed the world's first “minister of loneliness” to address the issue there. “I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with,” she said. Humans need social interaction and can suffer health consequences without it, says Louise Hawkley, a senior research scientist at the University of Chicago. “We are deeply social as a species” and “not designed to be solitary survivors,” she says. Some psychologists, social workers and others blame the persistence of loneliness on the stresses of modern society and cultural and demographic changes: more Americans today are older, single, living alone, have smaller families and are living far from relatives. Such changes in family and household structure could create diminishing support networks as individuals age. “We've never been a more isolated society than we are now,” Lenard Kaye, director of the University of Maine Center on Aging, told the Senate Special Committee on Aging last year. “It used to be we had extended families living under the same roof or at least in the same neighborhood or community.” Kaye's remark is similar to the position of Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, who said in his 2000 book, Bowling Alone, that American society began to fragment in the 1950s because of cultural changes such as the rise of television, the growing number of women working outside the home, and decreasing family sizes. Americans also spend less time today interacting with neighbors and engaging in civic and religious groups, and more time online, potentially increasing feelings of isolation, experts say. Some researchers say part of the problem stems from modern technology, with Americans spending increasing amounts of time staring at cellphone and computer screens and less time in face-to-face interactions. Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University psychology professor and author of iGen, has been studying technology’s impact on the generation born between 1995 and 2012 (which she calls iGen), who have grown up as smartphones became commonly used. The internet and, especially, the smartphone have led this generation of young people to spend far less time than previous generations interacting in person with friends — with dire consequences, she said. “Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011,” she wrote in The Atlantic last September. “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.” However, other studies show loneliness has been declining among young adults says Sara Konrath, an professor of philanthropic studies at Indiana University in Indianapolis and director of a research lab studying motivations and behaviors relevant to philanthropic giving and volunteering. “Young people may be more socially isolated, but they are becoming less lonely,” she says, citing a 2014 study of high school and college students. Because of their instant access via smartphones or social media, she says, young people may feel surrounded by people, and they may actually communicate more with their parents than in the past. She attributes mental health problems among young adults to high stress levels and a greater emphasis on success. Young men in New York City use their smartphones while waiting for a clothing store to open in 2017. As social media and the internet dominate American life, some researchers say technology can encourage social interaction while others caution that it can do the opposite. (Getty Images/Robert Alexander The effects of technology on loneliness and social isolation are a mixed bag, says Konrath. “It could be good or bad or both,” she says. “And it’s hard to lump all technology together. It’s changed the way people interact socially, but we don’t know the long-term effects.” Researchers disagree on whether loneliness is on the rise because of the difficulty in identifying who is lonely and who is socially isolated — and whether isolation actually leads to loneliness. For example, some experts cite the increase in the number of people living alone — which nearly doubled between 1967 and 2017 — as evidence that loneliness is growing. However, living alone and being lonely are not the same thing, says Eric Klinenberg, a professor of sociology at New York University and author of the 2012 book Going Solo. Many people who live alone interact with large social networks, he says. Some researchers define loneliness as the feeling or perception of being isolated and the belief that others cannot be trusted. In the Cigna study, about 54 percent of respondents said they felt no one knew them well, and 56 percent reported feeling like the people around them “are not necessarily with them.” About 55 percent of Americans today are members of a church or synagogue, down from nearly 70 percent in 1970. Also, the percentage of adults who spend a social evening with a neighbor at least several times a week dropped from 30 percent to 19 percent between 1974 and 2016. Instead, Americans increasingly are engaged online: A quarter of adults say they are “almost constantly” online, up from 21 percent in 2015, according to a January Pew Research Center survey. Experts have differing theories about what is causing loneliness and isolation, and not all agree that the problem is growing. However, there is widespread agreement that psychologists, social workers, medical practitioners and public officials should pay more attention to it. What are the results of loneliness? The Cigna study is part of a growing body of evidence that shows loneliness and social isolation afflict millions of Americans. These findings also indicate that the loneliness issue is associated with other problems: costly illnesses, a decline of social cohesion, and possibly even an increase in the nation's polarizing political divide. Studies have found that loneliness and social isolation are associated with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease and are risk factors for poor cognitive functioning, personality disorders, Alzheimer's disease, and suicide. Some researchers say chronic loneliness poses the same health risk as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and a greater risk of death than obesity. Some experts worry that as the Baby Boom generation ages and the elderly population increases, a growing number of seniors could experience loneliness or isolation, raising health care costs. A recent study commissioned by the AARP Public Policy Institute found that health care for socially isolated seniors costs Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people over 65, about $6.7 billion a year more than care for individuals who are more connected. Isolated seniors generally are sicker and more likely to be admitted to a nursing home after hospitalization than connected individuals who may have family members to help care for them, the study said. Chronic loneliness also leads to more frequent doctors’ visits by older Americans, some medical researchers say. Steven W. Cole, a professor of medicine and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the UCLA School of Medicine, and his colleagues have found that when people suffer loneliness, certain genes linked to inflammation become more active and genes related to antiviral responses become less active. Sociologists, behavioral scientists and political experts say that social isolation and loneliness are associated not only with poor physical or mental health but also with the health of the nation’s democracy. Living alone, feeling isolated or distrusting others is associated with decreased empathy and could be contributing to the increased political polarization in the United States, some analysts contend. Today’s divisive political atmosphere makes people want to isolate themselves even more than in the past, suggests professor Steve Cole. The current political climate “creates this view that other people” — particularly those with different political views — “cannot be trusted,” he says. Sociologists say that people’s distrust of others with opposing views creates a cycle: social isolation or loneliness leads to polarization of political views which leads back to more isolation. When people are not interacting with people with differing views, each group’s own views become more distinct. People today are likely to interact only with neighbors who share their political views or have the same ethnic identity and social class, Pew survey results show. About 58 percent of Americans who believe their neighbors share their political views speak to those neighbors in person on a weekly basis, but only 42 percent of those who said only “some” or “none” of their neighbors shared their political views speak to those neighbors weekly. Helping the Elderly Stay Connected Jim O'Brien, age 80 and a lifelong bachelor, lives in Minneapolis far from his eight siblings. As he aged, his social life dwindled. Then, a few years ago, O'Brien met Caitlin Heaney, now 27, through a nonprofit program called Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly that aims to relieve loneliness among senior citizens. The two quickly became friends, and they now share a meal at a restaurant once a month and hold piano concerts at the senior housing facility where O'Brien lives. “Social engagement is as important as food and water and shelter,” said James Falvey, the program's executive director. Amid an explosion of scientific studies associating loneliness or social isolation with illnesses such as dementia and cardiovascular disease, more and more communities, nonprofits and volunteer groups are testing new ways to care for seniors and help alleviate loneliness. In about 350 communities across the United States, for instance, groups of seniors are forming their own “villages” to help each other stay in their homes. Under the concept, which originated in Boston in 2002, residents pay membership dues averaging a few hundred dollars a year to a neighborhood-based membership organization that employs a small support staff. Volunteers help connect the residents to discounted services and organized social activities. “When you're a widow and it's a Friday night, this community group lets you meet people you can go to a play with,” said Ann Schummers, an organizer of a Massachusetts village called “Concord After 60.” In a 2016 study of seven senior villages by researchers at University of California-Berkeley, 74 percent of respondents said they know more people and 54 percent said they feel more connected with others because of their village membership. Still, the researchers said the seniors already were in good health and well-connected socially when they joined their village. Experts say that while innovative approaches can help many seniors stay connected, the challenges of social isolation and loneliness could grow significantly as the population ages. The number of Americans age 65 or older is expected to reach an estimated 98 million by 2060, roughly double today's count. “The importance of having a social network cannot be overstated in guarding against social isolation,” Lenard W. Kaye, director of the University of Maine's Center on Aging, told the Senate Special Committee on Aging last year. “Family, friends, neighbors and professional caregivers provide social support, social influence, create a buffer against stress, increase your access to resources and can even stimulate your immune system.” While estimates vary on the extent of loneliness among older Americans, an oft-cited 2010 AARP study found that about 25 percent of those older than 70 reported feelingly lonely, compared with 43 percent among those ages 45 to 49. Yet Berkeley sociologist Claude Fischer suspects many elderly Americans may be lonelier than they indicate on surveys. Many may compare themselves to other elderly people they know and think, “‘At my age, if I can get out of bed or get to church every week I'm doing pretty well,’” Fischer says. Team members cheer for Ginny Williams, 98, far left, in April 2018 at the Big 20 Bowling Center in Scarborough, Maine. Shared social activities can keep the elderly engaged and help alleviate feelings of loneliness, psychologists say. (Getty Images/Portland Press Herald/Jill Brady) Research into the effectiveness of programs to alleviate loneliness are limited, says Louise Hawkley, research scientist at University of Chicago's NORC, a social research center. However, for elderly people who are painfully lonely or dangerously isolated, it is important to help them make meaningful connections that will improve or at least protect their health, she says. “We can't expect putting mom in [an assisted living] facility will make her less isolated,” Hawkley says. “She might actually be lonelier.” Not all elderly people engage in the group, so they do not feel connected just by living in the community. A study conducted in 2011, for instance, found that about 29 percent of residents in retirement communities in northern Ohio reported feelings of loneliness. Meanwhile, some evidence suggests positive health effects of programs enabling social connections for the elderly, particularly across generations. A 2015 study on community involvement and volunteerism among people ages 65 to 84 found a decrease in reported feelings of loneliness, from 63 percent of respondents to 43 percent. That is similar to evidence from a program in Baltimore called Experience Corps, which helps senior citizens mentor students in public schools, Hawkley says. A 2004 study found that the program resulted in improved physical, cognitive and social activity among the older volunteers, and another study found that test scores improved among children in grades K-3 whom the volunteers mentored. “Both sides really came to see the value of the other,” Hawkley says, “and they ended up forming really good relationships.” About the Author Christina L. Lyons, a freelance journalist in the Washington, D.C., area, writes primarily about U.S. government and politics. She is a contributing author for CQ Press reference books, including CQ’s Guide to Congress, and was a contributing editor for Bloomberg BNA’s International Trade Daily. A former editor for Congressional Quarterly, she also was co-author of CQ’s Politics in America 2010. She has a master’s degree in political science from American University. RECIPIENT OF SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE ◆ AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION SILVER GAVEL AWARD DETERMINING THE KEY POINTS OF THE ARTICLE Fill in the blanks below and submit in Canvas. This is INDIVIDUAL work. Although the ideas you write will likely be very similar to others in your group, I SHOULD NOT see any of the exact same sentences on students’ submitted assignments. What is the TOPIC of the entire article? (word or short phrase) _______________________________________________________________________ What is the MAIN IDEA of the entire article? (What is the main message the author wants to tell you about the TOPIC?) _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ List the section headings from your article below. After each heading, write what you think the author’s MAIN IDEA is for that section. (What is the one main message the author wants to tell you about that section?) Add more blanks if you have more than 5 headings/sections. Section heading: ___________________________________ Main idea of section:______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ Section heading: ___________________________________ Main idea of section:______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ Section heading: ___________________________________ Main idea of section:______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ Section heading: ___________________________________ Main idea of section:______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ Section heading: ___________________________________ Main idea of section:______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________
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DETERMINING THE KEY POINTS OF THE ARTICLE
What is the TOPIC of the entire article? (Word or short phrase)
The topic of the entire article is loneliness and isolation as a health epidemic.
_________________________________________________________
What is the MAIN IDEA of the entire article?
The main idea of the entire article is that nearly half of Americans experience loneliness,
resulting in poor health and a growing health epidemic across ages and socioeconomic
backgrounds in the country.
_______________________________________________________________________
List the section headings from your article below and MAIN IDEA is for that section.
Section heading: introduction
Main idea of section: to introduce the topic
______________________________________________________
Section...


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