Loneliness a big health risk factor for older adults
Older adults who report feeling lonely may have a shorter lifespan than those who have satisfying relationships, according to a new study.
Scientists gathered this month at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Chicago, where they examined differences in how people decline physically and mentally as they age. They found that loneliness increased chances of premature death by 14 percent, and the reason was two-fold. First, older people without satisfying relationships have a disadvantage when it comes to developing resilience, or the ability to bounce back and learn from life’s stresses and obstacles. Secondly, researchers found that older people who report feeling lonely or isolated are more likely to have poor sleep quality, higher blood pressure, higher levels of stress and depression, which all can reduce a person’s lifespan.
The researchers recommended that older people try to avoid loneliness by staying in touch with former co-workers, participating in family events and planning times to get together with friends and family. Even people who live alone can avoid the health consequences of loneliness by remaining socially engaged and enjoying the company of others, researchers said.