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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Parents’ Isolation Linked to Children’s Health

Parents’ social isolation was linked to self-reported poorer health not only for themselves but also for their adolescent children, finds a study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

“The purpose of this study was to investigate the interrelationship between parent and adolescent social isolation and health,” said Dr. Tess Thompson, research assistant professor. Parents and adolescents who reported greater isolation tended to report their own health was worse. We also found that when parents reported greater isolation, their children reported worse health.”

Researchers studied data from the 2014 Family Life, Activity, Sun, Health, and Eating Study, a cross-sectional study conducted by the National Cancer Institute. Parents and their children ages 12 to 17 were recruited through a consumer opinion panel to complete online surveys about demographics, physical activity and diet.

“Our findings add to the evidence that social isolation is associated with health and suggest that helping parents address their own social isolation may affect not only their own health, but also the social and physical health of others in the household,” Dr. Thompson said.

“It may be helpful to screen patients — both adults and adolescents — for social factors such as loneliness in health care settings.”

In this study, perceived isolation and health were measured at the same time. “This means we don’t know the direction of relationships, that is, whether social isolation affects health, or the reverse,” Dr. Thompson said. “It will be important to investigate how these relationships unfold over time.”

The study was published in the March issue of the Clinical Social Work Journal.

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