Can loneliness shorten your life?

Can loneliness shorten your life?

Seniors who feel consistently lonely have a 14 percent higher risk of premature death than those who don’t, according to a new study. And if they’re living in poverty, the chance of an early death increases by 19 percent.

Researchers tracked more than 2,000 people aged 50 and over for six years. They discovered dramatic differences in the rate of decline in physical and mental health between lonely and socially engaged older people. Study participants with satisfying relationships had a much easier time “bouncing back” after adversity when compared to their “lonely” counterparts.

And while some aspects of aging – such as blindness and loss of hearing – place people at a special risk for becoming isolated, the researchers also noticed that it wasn’t solitude or physical isolation itself that caused loneliness, but rather the “subjective sense of isolation.”

Some participants were happy living a life of solitude, while others still felt lonely even with family and friends close by. The findings suggest that people need to feel involved and valued by those near to them, and that company alone was not enough.

“Each day between 2011 and 2030, an average of 10,000 people will turn 65,” said lead researcher John Cacioppo, in a news release. “People have to think about how to protect themselves from depression, low subjective well-being and early mortality.”

Previous studies have linked loneliness to a range of health problems, from high blood pressure to depression to heart attack and stroke. To stay healthy, Dr. Adam Rubinstein, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill., suggests seniors do their best to make plans each day that will get them up and out of the house.

“I recommend volunteering, visiting a community center or joining a bereavement group if you’ve lost a loved one,” Dr. Rubinstein says. “Participating in projects, art and socialization will keep you connected which is highly beneficial for your health.”

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One Comment

  1. Bereavement groups – counseling are OK but not much help for deep grief – loss of the love of ones lifetime. He and I counted on each other – supported each other for 46 yrs.
    I was with him til his last breath . NO tubes NO hospital Hospice care at end.
    He got pain killers etc. I hugged and kissed him – I told him he was Best thing that ever happened to me.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.