Sunday, January 20, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:00 PM
Golden Gate 2, Lobby Level (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: Aging Services and Gerontology (A&G)
Erika Sabbath, ScD, Boston College
Social isolation and loneliness are potent exposures, posing as great a risk to health and wellbeing as smoking, but get far less public attention. Furthermore, when social isolation and loneliness are discussed in social work research and practice, the conversation is often confined exclusively to older adults. This trend exists despite convincing evidence that social isolation does not develop spontaneously when one reaches older adulthood, but rather has its roots at multiple life stages. This symposium will present four papers that examine risk factors for, and consequences of, social isolation and loneliness across the lifecourse. The papers are diverse in the ages of participants, the populations to which those participants belong, and the theoretical frameworks and analytical methods used. Yet the papers are united by a strong central thread, that of the threat to health and wellbeing posed by social isolation, and the ways that social work can intervene at multiple points across the lifecourse to interrupt trajectories that lead to the late-life isolation and its consequences that dominate research in this area. This symposium supports the work of the "Eradicate Social Isolation" Grand Challenge for Social Work. The Grand Challenge has taken an explicit life course approach to the issues of isolation and loneliness. This symposium will further that effort and will bring the work of the Grand Challenge to the broader SSWR community, as many of the contributing authors are members of the Grand Challenge and the organizer is a co-lead. The symposium will start with a study of adolescents, and the subsequent papers will move chronologically through the lifecourse. In the first paper, "Closed off and opening up: A continuum of authenticity in the relational experiences of youth living with mood and anxiety disorders," Sapiro, Munson, Cole, & Ben-David explore how young people (ages 16-20) receiving services for mental health disorders navigate issues of trust, reciprocity, and connection/disconnection in their peer relationships. The second paper, "Social support buffers the impact of violence exposure on the cortisol stress response among high risk parents engaged in a stressful parenting task," (Brown & Dayton) explores social support (lack of isolation) in early to mid adulthood with data from 102 expectant mothers and fathers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds (mean ages of mothers=26 years and fathers=27 years). They find that violence exposure is associated with heightened physiological stress responses, particularly among parents with low social support; this has implications for both parental and child health. The third paper, "Does loneliness predict work disability in older adulthood? A longitudinal analysis of SHARE data from 14 countries" (Morris & Bessaha) finds that among adults aged 50-65 in Europe (early old age), loneliness is a longitudinal predictor of work-related disability, particularly among those with less education. Finally, the fourth paper, "Effects of discrimination on depressive symptoms and psychological distress among older African Americans: The role of family and church relationships" (Nguyen) finds that both close personal relationships and church membership modified associations between discrimination and depressive symptoms among older African Americans (ages 55+).
* noted as presenting author
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