America’s Loneliness Crisis

By Etta Thordarson, MSW Intern, SDSU Social Policy Institute

Loneliness is increasingly recognized as a devastating issue across the United States, particularly impacting older adults (60+). While many acknowledge the common health risks associated with aging, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and dementia, fewer consider the impact of social loneliness on health. 

Did you know that loneliness increases those risks? 

In 2023, The U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek identified loneliness and isolation as a critical public health crisis. Previous studies have reported that loneliness has the same health impact as smoking fifteen cigarettes per day. That is nearly a pack of cigarettes a day! With the combined increase of general aging health risks and the health impacts of loneliness, it is important more than ever to find community-based solutions to support our aging and older adult populations.

These additional facts shed light on aging and loneliness:

–   Approximately  28% of older adults nationwide live alone, unlike some cultures where intergenerational housing is more common

–   One in three adults feels lonely and one in four older adults are considered socially isolated. Adults with robust supportive social connections are less likely to experience loneliness and isolation

–   Lonely adults are more likely to be depressed and have a pessimistic outlook on the future

–   Social isolation significantly increases risks from premature death

–   Social isolation was associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia

The United States is trending towards an older population, with California expecting a quarter of the population (10.8 million) to be classified as aging adults in 2030 (California Department of Aging, 2021). The current infrastructure is inadequately equipped to support the unique needs of this population.

Recognizing the urgency of this crisis, The Center for Excellence in Aging and Longevity has partnered with Meals on Wheels San Diego and Determined Health to address loneliness in San Diego’s older adult population. Determined Health designed the innovative Connection1st CallHub connecting younger adults to older adults.

Through this program, SDSU students and community volunteers engage in weekly social calls with older adults, fostering meaningful connections and combating loneliness. Even brief 15-minute phone calls have been shown to significantly reduce feelings of loneliness among older adults. By building intergenerational bonds we have the ability to create bridges of community and connection and reduce loneliness one call at a time. 

Would you like to be part of CEAL’s CallHub?

Reach out to us via email at or give us a call at 619-365-5905 and a member of our staff will follow up with you. We look forward to connecting with you!