Feeling lonely or being socially isolated puts older adults at risk of dying sooner and experiencing other serious health outcomes like cardiovascular disease, depression, dementia, and suicide. Many older adults report feeling lonely or experience social isolation, especially women, due to major life transitions that can accompany aging including retirement, chronic illness, widowhood, and living alone. Rachel Savage, PhD, is investigating loneliness and social isolation in older adults at the population-level to understand how we can improve the health and well-being of our aging population and alleviate demands on our healthcare system.
Older adults who feel lonely or socially isolated may use healthcare services differently than those who are socially connected. Savage’s collaborative research uses national health survey data linked with health administrative data from our universal healthcare system to understand whether and how loneliness and social isolation impact how older adults use healthcare services. Her research also focuses on establishing a platform to connect those in public health, healthcare, and the community working to address these issues.
Older women report higher levels of loneliness than men. This may be because women, on average, live longer and have a greater likelihood of outliving their spouse and experiencing prolonged widowhood. They also are more likely to have caregiver roles, lower incomes, and acknowledge feeling lonely. Savage is using a variety of approaches, including surveys and focus groups, to understand the experience of loneliness in women and to determine whether older women and men have shared, or unique, risk factors, to better address the needs of all older adults.
PhD, Epidemiology, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto
MSc, Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Postdoctoral Fellowship Award (2019)
- Lupina Senior Doctoral Fellowship, Comparative Program on Health and Society, Munk School of Global Affairs (2015)
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Doctoral Research Award (2013)