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Social Connectedness Among Medicare Beneficiaries Following the Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Educational Objective
To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME

Social distancing is an effective strategy to limit contagion and mortality from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these measures may also decrease perceived social connectedness and conversely increase social isolation, states which are associated with psychologic and physiologic morbidity.15 Patients who are elderly or have disabilities are particularly encouraged to practice social distancing given their higher risk of severe COVID-19 infection, but they also have a higher baseline risk for reporting social isolation.5,6 We hypothesized that the pandemic and social distancing measures have negatively affected perceptions of social connectedness among these high-risk patients.

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Article Information

Accepted for Publication: April 10, 2021.

Published Online: May 28, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.2348

Corresponding Author: Wesley John Talcott, MD, MBA, Smilow Cancer Hospital, PO Box 208040, New Haven, CT 06520-8040 (wesley.talcott@yale.edu).

Author Contributions: Dr Talcott had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: Talcott, Gross, Park.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Talcott, Yu.

Drafting of the manuscript: Talcott.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Yu, Gross, Park.

Statistical analysis: Talcott.

Supervision: Park.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Yu reported personal fees from Boston Scientific and Galera Pharmaceuticals outside the submitted work. Dr Gross reported grants from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (Pfizer/AstraZeneca), Johnson & Johnson, and Genentech, and travel/speaking fees from Flatiron outside the submitted work. No other disclosures were reported.

References
1.
Tiikkainen  P , Heikkinen  RL .  Associations between loneliness, depressive symptoms and perceived togetherness in older people.   Aging Ment Health. 2005;9(6):526-534. doi:10.1080/13607860500193138PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
2.
Ashida  S , Heaney  CA .  Differential associations of social support and social connectedness with structural features of social networks and the health status of older adults.   J Aging Health. 2008;20(7):872-893. doi:10.1177/0898264308324626PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
3.
Cacioppo  JT , Cacioppo  S .  Social relationships and health: the toxic effects of perceived social isolation.   Soc Personal Psychol Compass. 2014;8(2):58-72. doi:10.1111/spc3.12087PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
4.
Santini  ZI , Jose  PE , York Cornwell  E ,  et al.  Social disconnectedness, perceived isolation, and symptoms of depression and anxiety among older Americans (NSHAP): a longitudinal mediation analysis.   Lancet Public Health. 2020;5(1):e62-e70. doi:10.1016/S2468-2667(19)30230-0PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
5.
Smith  ML , Steinman  LE , Casey  EA .  Combatting social isolation among older adults in a time of physical distancing: the COVID-19 social connectivity paradox.   Front Public Health. 2020;8:403. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2020.00403PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
6.
AARP. Loneliness among older adults: a national survey of adults 45+. Accessed February 14, 2021. https://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/general/loneliness_2010.pdf
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