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Doctors advised to try “social prescribing” in place of more meds.
Older people who scored high on a loneliness questionnaire were more likely to take multiple medications, mostly psychotropics, than those reporting no social support deficits, researchers said.
Use of antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and other anxiolytic/sedative drugs were all significantly more common in individuals older than 65 with substantial loneliness indicators versus those with none, with differences in prevalence of 6 to 13 percentage points after adjustments, according to Ashwin Kotwal, MD, MS, of University of California San Francisco, and colleagues writing in JAMA Internal Medicine.
“[C]linicians should consider initiating social interventions for lonely older adults or ‘social prescribing’ to local community-based support programs” rather than piling on medications to relieve symptoms, Kotwal’s group suggested. They noted that loneliness may contribute to somatic and psychiatric problems; and in those cases in which loneliness results from such symptoms, it may exacerbate them. And, the researchers pointed out, medications are unlikely to relieve loneliness.