Among the Largest Studies on Loneliness, New Papa Research Helps Fill Knowledge Gap about Social Health Among Older Adults and Historically Marginalized Populations

The “State of Social Health Report: A Look at Loneliness in America’s Older Adults and People with Disabilities” features insights to help move the needle on improving whole health from an epidemiological study of 28,588 Medicare Advantage members

MIAMI, Nov. 7, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Papa, a curated platform of companionship and support for older adults and families, released today its inaugural “State of Social Health Report: A Look at Loneliness in America’s Older Adults and People with Disabilities.” The report captures insights and data derived from nearly 29,000 Medicare Advantage (MA) members between January and June 2023 about loneliness, social connection, whole health, health equity, and other related topics—making it among the largest single datasets on loneliness studied.

Papa’s findings highlight existing barriers to social health, how unmet needs vary between Medicare Advantage subpopulations—including people with disabilities and low income older adults—and the critical need to reduce loneliness and provide social support through human connection. Key findings include:

  • Poor social health is widespread. Nearly one in five have no one to turn to for help in a time of need, while one in three report being completely disconnected socially. This is especially alarming in the context of the report’s findings that loneliness leads to poorer whole health across all domains—physical health, mental health, social health, and purpose.
  • There’s a clear connection between loneliness and health equity. People with disabilities reported the highest prevalence of loneliness, the most difficulty finding social support, the most unmet social needs, and the lowest whole health scores. And Dual-Eligible Special Needs Plan (DSNP) members, who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid due to low income status, were not far behind. Compared to traditional MA members, people with disabilities and DSNP members reported 61% and 43% more unmet social needs, respectively—indicating two important subpopulations in need.
  • Loneliness is an underlying issue. Severely lonely people have significantly more physical and mental health challenges, and three times more likely to be in the emergency department on multiple occasions, and almost three times as likely to say it is very difficult to find someone to help them during a time of need.
  • Transportation is a critical social driver of health. For every additional transportation barrier cited, the chance of social disconnection increases. Members who reported feeling lonely are 73% more likely to report a transportation barrier compared to members who are not. And the report found the most common type of transportation barrier is to visit socially—noteworthy because while non-emergency medical transportation is often offered to MA members, transportation for social needs is far less common, despite a strong need and high relative importance to social health.

“The data we’ve released today shows in the clearest terms that social connection is needed to advance whole health—particularly for those facing higher unmet needs and disparities,” said Kelsey McNamara, MPH, senior director of research at Papa. “When we talk about health equity, we need to consider low income individuals and people with disabilities, and we need to work harder and intentionally to improve health outcomes for the people in these groups who will otherwise be left behind. At Papa, our goal is to not only illuminate these barriers that exist, but to pave the path for better social health for all.”

While establishing that these issues exist at a high level, Papa’s State of Social Health Report points to the fact that interventions are effective and needed at all levels, including proactive screening, prevention, and treatment for mental and physical wellbeing. However, not all social drivers of health investments are created equal, especially for older adults and other underserved groups. At its core, this report demonstrates that people need people and in-person support must be a core component of human-centered health care.

The report also showcases the positive correlation between social connection through Papa and improved physical and mental health. In a separate analysis of Papa participants, 60% of severely lonely members experienced clinical improvements—moving to a lower category of loneliness—and reduced their mentally and physically unhealthy days by 6.2 and 2.1 days, respectively. Services like Papa’s companion care can improve loneliness and quality of life among severely lonely individuals, and serve as early intervention before conditions worsen—addressing equally important public health imperatives.

Read Papa’s full report here, and learn more about its offerings and services at

About Papa

Papa is a new kind of care, built on human connection. Across the country, health plans and employers look to Papa to provide vital social support by pairing older adults and families with Papa Pals, trained and vetted companions, who provide a helping hand and an open ear, resulting in less loneliness and better health. Founded in 2017 and headquartered in Miami, Papa is backed by Canaan, Tiger Global Management, Comcast Ventures, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, TCG, Initialized Capital, and Seven Seven Six, among other revered institutional and individual investors. We envision a world where no one has to go it alone. Learn more at

Papa Media Contact:
Jill Bongiorni Meadows

SOURCE Papa Inc.

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