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For the Elderly, Loneliness Is a Health Risk Factor

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The old quote says no man is an island. Indeed, man cannot live by himself. Social health is an aspect of health wherein the person develops relationships with other people. If there are problems affecting the social life of a person, his health is also affected. In this latest study, researchers have found out that loneliness can increase the risk for senior deaths.


Recent technology has left us doing jobs with more ease than before yet have made us busier and busier everyday and have made our elderly more lonelier and lonelier without company every day.

Gone were the days when children and grandparents sat side by side and read books or played board games together. Today, our kids are more preoccupied with playing video games and watching television than spending time with their grandparents. This is the age of secluded seniors.

According to recent studies, about one-fourth of the population of seniors live alone, while almost half report being lonely regularly. The studies have also found out that the more a senior gets lonelier, the more they are likely to decline and die faster. It is said by an US study that 60 year olds have a 45 percent risk in death when they report feeling lonely. There is also more than 50% mental and physical decline among seniors who feel lonely than those whose social lives have been active. Lonely people are also at risk of acquiring Alzheimer's disease. Lonely people oftentimes push other people away and isolate themselves from society.

And not only that, the US study reports that seniors who feel lonely were either married or have been living with a partner for some time. Experts think that it's not the more relationships you have but the quality of the relationships that you enjoy.

So why are our seniors so lonely? One reason for this is because they are alone. Some of them are placed in nursing homes, assisted living communities and other communities where they have limited contact with their family. Oftentimes, their family members pay little attention to them and do not have deep engaging communications with them. The other roots of a senior's loneliness include reduced mobility, reduced income and loss of friends and family members. Loneliness can greatly impact quality of life and health. There are negative health effects that may arise from being lonely. Loneliness is said to have negative effects on blood pressure and is associated with depression and risk for mortality. Loneliness can also predispose to vices such as smoking and alcohol consumption.

This problem among our elderly can be addressed by creating communities where seniors can befriend others at their age group, group services that offer help and support for seniors, and with the use of volunteers in the community who can give emotional, social and practical support.

Loneliness and Early Death

In a latest study by researchers from the University of Chicago, feeling extremely lonely can increase a senior's risk for premature death by 14 percent. The researchers studied the rate of physical and mental decline on seniors. They have found out that older people can eliminate their risk for death by having resilience and by growing from everyday stresses. According to these experts, loneliness can bring about negative consequences such as sleep disruption, blood pressure elevation, increase in the stress hormone  cortisol, altered gene expression in immune cells, low well-being and increased depression. The researchers say that seniors can prevent this decline by staying in touch with family and friends, taking part in family functions and sharing good times with family and friends.

You can learn more about defying aging by reading our other articles on this site.