Santiago Internship Stories: Researching Loneliness in Senior Citizens

August 13, 2020

Ilana Mittleman, who is pursuing her Master’s in Public Health at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health (MPH), is researching measures of social isolation and loneliness in senior citizens under the direction of Esteban Calvo at Universidad Mayor’s Society and Health Research Center (CISS by its acronym in Spanish).

The work is being performed under the international collaboration partnership established last year between Columbia’s MPH and Chile’s CISS, which is led by Calvo, CISS director and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at MPH.

Mittleman began by conducting a literature review for different measures of loneliness and social isolation, followed up by documenting the availability, validity, and reliability of those measurements among senior citizens. She is now comparing social isolations in different countries through surveys of those adults.

Before starting this internship, Mittleman was already very interested in the topic of social isolation among older adults; that interest grew in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, where the issue of loneliness has become even more relevant. She is gaining a greater understanding of the issue through her research, while also learning skills such as literature review writing and dataset work.

Prior to Columbia, Mittleman worked for five years at a nonprofit in New York City, serving senior citizens.