To better treat patients, hospitals should keep the family close

Loneliness is as hazardous to one’s health as smoking a pack a day, new research suggests.

Oddly enough, people in the hospital are at particular risk of becoming lonely. Doctors, nurses and support staff may poke and prod them at all hours of the day or night. But they tend to lack meaningful interactions with family and friends, especially as the days in the hospital mount.

That could have dire consequences for their recovery. All the good work their clinicians are doing to heal them could be undermined by loneliness.

Fortunately, healthcare providers can “treat” loneliness — by making smart design choices that keep loved ones by patients’ sides.

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