Using Technology to Treat Loneliness and Isolation

July 7, 2019

It’s inevitable, but everyone will experience loneliness and/or social isolation. One we choose, the other chooses us. Although different, together they threaten to become two of the biggest and costliest healthcare issues facing our nation…unless we take action now.

Cacioppo and Hawkley (2003) considered loneliness (subjective isolation) to be qualitative with factors that reflected a persons’ sense of belonging and quality of relationships. Loneliness is often a choice that is made by individuals for a variety of reasons such as divorce, relationship breakups, membership terminations, and many others. Choosing to socially disconnect may make sense in the short term, but long term the disconnection can impact a person’s well-being and health. A 2018 report by Cigna reported that loneliness levels in the US have reached an all time high. Amy Novotney (APA 2019) cited that 25% of the US population lives alone, more than half the population is not married while volunteerism and church affiliations have both decreased.

According to Shaw, Noel-Miller, Joseph, Houser, and Flowers (2017) Social isolation, also called “objective isolation” is defined as quantifiable disconnectedness and includes the size and organization of a person’s social networks. The five researchers also added other factors such as the frequency of contacts of social networks and the duration of each contact in the networks. Impacted by deaths of friends, family, retirement, and health it’s natural to feel the sting of objective isolation. Dhruv Khullar (New York Times, 2016) quoted a senior citizen who captured this sentiment best by stating “your world dies before you do.”

Together, social isolation and loneliness left untreated represent are a serious threat to every nation on the planet. According to projected costs, Medicare will spend $1644 per year per beneficiary treating objective isolation in adults. Shaw, Noel-Miller, Joseph, Houser and Flowers concluded that “objectively isolated seniors have higher Medicare spending driven by increased hospitalization and institutionalization and face greater mortality. Policies supporting social connectedness could reap significant savings.” According to BYU researcher, Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad the “lack of social connectedness” creates health risks that are equivalent to smoking 15 packs of cigarettes a day and having an alcohol addiction or fighting the mental effects of obesity.

Countries and healthcare organizations are starting to realize the importance of dealing with both loneliness and isolation. Thirty2give, LLC has developed a smartphone app that is a cost-effective solution that is available to organizations today using a secure and safe downloadable app. Since there are more smartphones on the planet than there are people, the Thirty2give tool is accessible to almost anyone dealing with social isolation and loneliness. Based on a mentoring tree format, users can dialogue with other peers in chatroom conversations that are proctored by trained healthcare professionals, counselors and volunteers supplied by the host organization. Users will also have the ability to chat privately, either asynchronously or synchronously, with the same professionals if needed.

It is inevitable that everyone will deal with social isolation or loneliness at some point in their life with increased frequency as they age. Despite the onset of loneliness or social isolation, the Thirty2give app is an effective tool that we can choose now to increase our connectedness as traditional social contacts decrease. If you are a healthcare provider, an organization that treats loneliness and social isolation, or you just would like more information about the Thirty2give smartphone app, please contact us today at


Shaw, J. G., Farid, M., Noel-Miller, C., Joseph, N., Houser, A., Asch, S. M., … Flowers, L. (2017). Social Isolation and Medicare Spending: Among Older Adults, Objective Social Isolation Increases Expenditures while Loneliness Does Not. Journal of aging and health, 29(7), 1119–1143. doi:10.1177/0898264317703559

Social isolation and health, with an emphasis on underlying mechanisms. Cacioppo JT, Hawkley LC

Perspect Biol Med. 2003 Summer; 46(3 Suppl):S39-52

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