May 2024 – The Impact of Loneliness

The Impact Of Loneliness On Recovery

This is the first of a three-part series on ‘Loneliness’ and the impact that we see it has on recovery from serious medical conditions or injuries.  For Part 1, we give you some background and we will provide more details on our approach in subsequent newsletters. 

The Impact of Loneliness on Recovery
The Claim Lab’s Psychosocial Questionnaires have always included a ‘loneliness’ question:

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We know anecdotally, that having family and friends around supports recovery, particularly from mental health conditions. Let’s face it, these days we all have mental health concerns – it’s just a question of where on the scale we sit at a point in time. The real question is how can we get better!

If we’re lonely it’s harder to pick ourselves up after an emotional setback. We can underestimate the importance of having people around us who care about our well-being and who can help lift our emotions.

Of course, there is a further complication that we can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. In other words, an individual needs that caring relationship to be established and for some of us that can be very hard to do, so we feel isolated.

Yet, there is no diagnosis code for Loneliness as it’s not a medical condition.

Education on Loneliness
Recently I was chatting with my friend and colleague Fred Schott about this topic, and he introduced me to “Project Unlonely” by Dr Jeremy Nobel, a must read (or listen) for everyone. Dr Nobel has deeply researched loneliness and does a great job identifying different types of loneliness.

This got me thinking about The Claim Lab’s data, and specifically analyzing the effect that loneliness has on recovery from a medical condition or from a workplace injury.

This set us on a path for our own deep dive into the relationships between these factors.

All in the data
At The Claim Lab we have built a Psychosocial Questionnaire that captures information from individuals who have a medical condition or a workplace injury. We use this information to paint a holistic picture of the individual, and to understand how they might be helped to recover, if at all possible.
We identify where they are on this scale, what obstacles they have to overcome, and how they can be supported.

Before the start of the claim process, an individual has made a decision to stop working, due to pain, lack of function or emotional distress. Of course, in many cases this is determined by a severe medical condition or injury, but in other cases there is a decision point…. “I just can’t go on any longer”. We all have a different level of tolerance, driven by things happening in our lives, our emotional state, our feelings, and perceptions…  and it can be hard to comprehend these factors.

The Claim Lab’s data helps us understand the whole individual. Our Questionnaires capture these psychosocial factors so we can start to measure this tolerance level and help overcome obstacles to recovery.

Loneliness Case Study
At one of our regular client check-in meetings, we were discussing the effectiveness of the data with a group of nurse case managers. One of them talked about a case where a middle-aged claimant had fallen off a ladder and had sustained a serious knee injury.

The individual was hospitalized and underwent surgery to correct the issue. He was about to be discharged but was told that he could put no weight on his knee for two weeks.

For the case manager, this set off alarm bells, as she had read on our Questionnaire that this individual lived on his own and had feelings of loneliness. So, there would be no help for him physically, and maybe more importantly, emotionally once he was discharged.

Therefore, our client took a proactive step to support the claimant. Since there were no places available in the local rehab center, in-home help was organized and included regular wellness visits.

Insights In Action
How much did this extra insight help? This is a hard question to answer as each situation is different and we can’t replay the events that occurred. However, by understanding the uniqueness of each situation, care can be tailored to meet an individual’s emotional needs as well as their physical needs.

Analysis of our data shows that individuals who answer our question “Do you ever feel lonely?” with “All of the time” take nearly 50% longer to return to work.

In the case of the claim described above, had the nurse case managers not stepped in to help, the claim cost would have been 50% higher.

That’s a real financial benefit achieved by doing the right thing!

If you want to discuss what this in more detail, please contact us at

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