Category Archives: Social isolation

Aug 4 2014
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Loneliness: A Significant Stressor that Requires Intervention

Laurie A. Theeke, PhD, FNP-BC, is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars program and an associate professor of nursing at West Virginia University School of Nursing.

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The Burden of Stress in America, a new report commissioned by NPR, RWJF, and the Harvard School of Public Health, makes it clear that Americans are experiencing extremely stressful life events that are contributing to poor health outcomes. As a researcher who studies loneliness and how it contributes to poor health, I found the report somewhat alarming. Many of the life events identified by survey respondents are already associated with loneliness in the health and social science literature. Stressful events like new illness and disease, losing a spouse or loved one, or major life transitions can all lead to a personal experience of loneliness. This is very concerning because loneliness is a unique psychological stressor that can be hard to recognize or remedy without professional help.

Loneliness is a significant biopsychosocial stressor that contributes to multiple chronic conditions. We have known since the 1950s that there is an association between loneliness and cardiovascular problems like hypertension (Hawkey, Masi, Berry, & Cacioppo, 2006). More recent studies have identified loneliness as a major predictor of stroke as well.

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Jul 23 2014
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Facebook: Friend or Foe?

Linda Charmaraman is a research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College and a former National Institute of Child Health and Human Development postdoctoral scholar. She is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections grantee, examining the potential of social media networks to promote resiliency in vulnerable populations.

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If you were stressed out and wanted to vent to your friends about it, how would you let them know? Would you pick up the phone and talk, or text? Would you set up time to grab coffee or go for a brisk walk? Or would you post to Facebook why your day just couldn’t get any worse?

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As I logged into the recent RWJF/NPR/Harvard School of Public Health-sponsored Stress in America discussion, I identified with the panelists who were dispelling stereotypes about “highly stressed” individuals being high-level executives or those at the top of the ladder. Instead of finding work-related stress as a top concern, as is often played out in the media and popular culture, the researchers were finding that individuals with health concerns, people with disabilities, and low-income individuals were experiencing the highest levels of stress. The panelists talked about the importance of qualities like resiliency and the ability to turn multiple, competing stressors into productive challenges to overcome, and the integral role of communities in shaping, buffering, and/or exacerbating stress.

We often consider our communities as living, working, playing in close physical proximity. But what about the online spaces? What about our opt-in networked friendship circles ... our cyber-audience who sign up to read our posts with mundane observations, proud revelations, and the occasional embarrassing photos?

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Dec 31 2012
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YOUR Top Five Blog Posts of 2012

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Blog published more than 350 posts in 2012. On Friday, we shared five of the ten most-read posts published on this blog in 2012. Today, as we prepare to usher in a new year, we report on the top five.

Isolation in America: Does Living Alone Mean Being Alone? In this provocative piece, Eric Klinenberg, PhD, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, discussed his well-reviewed book, “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.” It looks at the health problems associated with social isolation. Klinenberg calls the increase in people living alone the country’s “biggest demographic change since the baby boom.” His post attracted the biggest audience on this blog in 2012.

Supreme Court Ruling Offers a Sense of Hope. This very personal piece by Thomas Tsang, MD, FACP, an alumnus of the RWJF Health Policy Fellows program, was the second most-read post on this blog in all of 2012. Tsang reacted to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding key elements of the Affordable Care Act from the perspective of immigrant families like his own. Tsang said he hoped the ruling would allow “the country [to] start healing together and work on finding better solutions for future generations who believe that life is indeed better here in America—as my parents and I still do.”

Legal Experts Were Completely Stunned by John Roberts’ Health Care Opinion.  This post by RWJF Investigator Mark Hall, JD, also addressed the U.S. Supreme Court’s health reform ruling.  “We all knew it would be close, but we never saw this coming,” he blogged about the Chief Justice’s vote to uphold the highly controversial individual mandate. It was the third most-read post on the RWJF Human Capital Blog in 2012.

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Mar 29 2012
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Human Capital News Roundup: Food deserts, physician misconduct online, health benefits of strong social ties, and more.

Around the country, the news media is covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation scholars, fellows and grantees. Here are some examples.

Nurse.com and Becker’s Hospital Review report on the launch of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)-supported Academic Progression in Nursing (APIN) initiative. The $4.3 million, Phase 1 two year-initiative will provide funding to nine state Action Coalitions as they work to advance state and regional strategies to create a more highly educated nursing workforce. Learn more about APIN.

A New York Times letter to the editor about the Independent Payment Advisory Board, written by RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research program director Alan B. Cohen, ScD, was chosen as the paper’s “Sunday Dialogue,” in which readers’ responses to the letter—and Cohen’s rejoinder—were published.

RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar Shannon Zenk, PhD, MPH, RN, spoke to NPR’s Salt blog about a study that finds improving cost and proximity to fresh produce is not the only incentive needed to convince people to buy fresh fruits and vegetables; consumers also care about selection and quality. Zenk says other factors, such as a lack of safety or cleanliness, and poor customer service, also can deter people from shopping for healthy food.

“New Jersey is making strides in meeting the challenges of a looming nursing shortage by providing incentives that are persuading some in the profession to turn to teaching the next generation of nurses,” NJ Spotlight writes of the New Jersey Nursing Initiative, a program of RWJF and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

RWJF Clinical Scholars alumnus Ryan Greysen, MD, MA, continues to earn media coverage about his study examining the pervasiveness of physician misconduct online and its repercussions. Becker’s Hospital Review, MD News and Modern Medicine are among the outlets to report on the findings.

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Feb 6 2012
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Isolation in America: Does Living Alone Mean Being Alone?

Eric Klinenberg, PhD, is a professor of sociology at New York University and the recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Investigator Award in Health Policy Research. He is the author of “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone,” which examines a fast-growing trend of people in the United States living alone.

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Human Capital Blog: Why did you decide to look at this topic?

Eric Klinenberg: The first book I wrote was about a catastrophic heat wave in Chicago that killed more than 700 people in 1995. One of the most powerful and disturbing features of the event was that hundreds of people died alone and were discovered hours, or in some cases days, after they perished. I became aware of how pervasive aging alone had become and grew very concerned about the health problems of social isolation. Through the RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, I was able to do more work on the topic. Their support was completely essential.

When I started doing research on the bigger issue of living alone, I realized that what I had studied in Chicago was its bleakest aspect. Social isolation is a big problem, and one that deserves far more attention and resources than we give it today. But I also realized that there’s much more to living alone than being isolated. Living alone and being alone are very different things. And Going Solo calls for a more sharp distinction between them.

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