MetroHealth warns the danger of loneliness and isolation

Published: May. 8, 2023 at 5:51 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Leaders at MetroHealth say like Karen Cook say a simple phone call could be a lifesaver for a person experiencing loneliness.

“The research will show impacts on this like cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia, anxiety, depression, and even premature death,” said Karen Cook, Director, Institute for H.O.P.E.

Just last week, the U.S. Surgeon General urged action, issuing an advisory for what he calls an ‘Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.”

A health risk MetroHealth has fought right here in Cleveland for 2 years.

“Starting in 2019, MetroHealth began screening all of our patients for their health-related social needs, and we quickly saw that social isolation rose to the top among all of the risks we were screening for,” said Cook.

For some of us, feelings of loneliness pass on by, but when they don’t the advisory warns of harmful effects.

According to the advisory, loneliness and social isolation can increase the risk of premature death to more than 60 percent, as harmful as smoking 12 cigarettes daily.

That’s why Calls for HOPE, a MetroHealth program, pairs volunteers with patients experiencing loneliness through regular phone calls.

“It’s amazing what a repour you can establish even through a phone call,” said Cook

I talked to one volunteer with the program. She told 19 News after weeks of speaking one on one with her match she saw a difference, a healthier difference

“I didn’t change my day, but it may have been the only person that she spoke with,” said one volunteer.

One phone call at a time, in hopes of building meaningful, lifesaving connections