“Whole-person health is really taking this idea that we need to treat the whole person, not just the disease; that we need to look at the whole spectrum of the social factors that impact a person’s health, including behavioral and mental health,” said Peggy Maguire, president of Cambia Health Foundation. “For people who experience loneliness and isolation, their health can be deeply affected – we are all complicated, interconnected beings and we’re meant to be connected to others.”
Earlier this month, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released an advisory declaring widespread loneliness as a public health epidemic. According to the report, loneliness creates health risks that are as deadly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes daily and poses “profound threats to our health and well-being.” While the pandemic brought more attention to the issue of loneliness, the problem existed long before COVID-19.
The impact on aging populationsLoneliness and isolation are typically invisible hazards, worsened by a culture of stigma and shame around the topic. While the Surgeon General’s advisory addresses loneliness and isolation among all ages, older populations are especially at risk due to a variety of factors, like living alone and reduced connection and conversation due to hearing loss. The scope of people affected is staggering; more than one-third of adults age 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults age 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.
When people have healthy social connections with others, the health benefits skyrocket including potential prevention of heart disease, stroke and dementia, as well as improved well-being and quality of life. The opposite is true as well – social isolation is associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia, 29% increased risk of heart disease, and 32% increased risk of stroke.
Empowering Cambia employees to helpThrough volunteerism, serving on nonprofit boards and donating personal funds (with eligible donations matched by the Foundation at 50%), Cambia employees have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to many organizations that help combat loneliness and isolation. Organizations that employees have stepped up to support over the years include:
Meals on Wheels People: In the last five years, $28,863 in donations were generated by employees to support the organization’s vision that “no senior will go hungry or experience social isolation.” In addition to employees volunteering time to serve meals at dining centers, or deliver meals and friendly visits to homebound older adults, Cambia employees have also served on the board. Kristen Erbes, Cambia’s vice president and chief compliance and privacy officer, explained why she chose to support Meals on Wheels as both a volunteer and board member.