Is your patient lonely? There may be a prescription for that


Loneliness is a public health concern affecting populations across the life span—contributing to increased functional decline in aging populations and anxiety and depression in children and teens.

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The November issue of AMA Journal of Ethics® (@JournalofEthics) explores the various factors influencing loneliness, such as technology, culture, health care and public policy, and why this health issue deserves attention in the health professions. Contributors to this issue also consider possible interventions to reduce the negative health effects of loneliness and how to respond more fully to the needs of patients and populations experiencing social isolation.

For the journal’s November podcast, U.S. Surgeon General Vice Adm. Vivek H. Murthy, MD, joined “Ethics Talk” to discuss loneliness as a public health threat and the connection between loneliness, public health responsiveness and the health of our democracy.

The November issue of AMA Journal of Ethics includes the following articles.

  1. What Are ‘Social Prescriptions’ and How Should They Be Integrated Into Care Plans?” 

    Health consequences of social isolation and loneliness include worse morbidity and mortality, and “social prescribing” is one way to intervene.

  2. How Should Organizations Be Held Accountable for Promoting Environments That Foster Social Connection?

    Growing familiarity with health risks of loneliness and isolation highlight the importance of social connection in lived environments and communities.

  3. Should Artificial Intelligence Play a Role in Cultivating Social Connections Among Older Adults?

    AI technology can be implemented to avoid the drawback of diminishing social connections.

  4. The Internet and Loneliness.”

    Research is needed to determine the direction of causality between loneliness and internet use. 

The November issue also features eight author-interview podcasts, as well as an episode of the “Ethics Teaching and Learning” podcast on public health ethics teaching during the waning COVID-19 pandemic. Listen to previous episodes of the “Ethics Talk” podcast, or subscribe in Apple Podcasts or other services.

Also, CME modules drawn from this month’s issue are collected at the AMA Ed Hub™ AMA Journal of Ethics webpage.

The journal’s editorial focus is on commentaries and articles that offer practical advice and insights for medical students and physicians. Submit a manuscript for publication. The journal also invites original photographs, graphics, cartoons, drawings and paintings that explore the ethical dimensions of health or health care.

Upcoming issues of the journal will focus on belonging, placement and turfing, and critical pedagogy in the health professions. Sign up to receive email alerts when new issues are published.