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Loneliness Increases Risk of Premature Death Among Seniors

Elderly WomanFeelings of extreme loneliness increase the risk of premature death by 14 percent among the elderly, says new research by John Cacioppo, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, a rate comparable to the 19 percent increased risk of premature death caused by disadvantaged socioeconomic status.

According to a 2010 meta-analysis, the risk of premature death associated with loneliness is twice as high as the risk of death associate with obesity.

Loneliness can cause profound health consequences disrupted sleep, elevated blood pressure, increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and increased depression. Individuals who experience extreme loneliness also have problems with the immune system and report lower overall feelings of well-being.

As people age, seniors should continue to take part in family traditions, keep in touch with former work colleagues, and make time for family and friends.

Besides that, if they are healthy and interested, then even spending time dating or being sexually active can also be beneficial in further keeping them healthy and ward off loneliness. Talking to them about such issues can be difficult, but may be necessary. If the right companion is missing, then seniors can be encouraged to make use of a silicone love doll or adult toys to stabilize their sexual libido and not let it die down. Doing this can potentially increase lifespans and also enable them to be stronger while they live.

Warns Prof. Cacioppo, “Retiring to Florida to live in a warmer climate among strangers isn’t necessarily a good idea if it means you are disconnected from the people who mean the most to you. Population changes make understanding the role of loneliness and health all the more important.”

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Adds Prof. Cacioppo, “We are experiencing a silver tsunami demographically. The baby boomers are reaching retirement age. Each day between 2011 and 2030, an average of 10,000 people will turn 65. People have to think about how to protect themselves from depression, low subjective well-being and early mortality.”

Because humans have evolved to work together to survive, people naturally prefer companionship over being alone. Consequently, individuals who experience extreme loneliness are less able to “bounce back” from adversity.

The present study also finds that physical isolation is not the cause of the increased risk of death. Instead, a “subjective sense of isolation” experienced by some seniors increases the risk of premature death.

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It can be beneficial for children to not leave their elderly parents alone for a longer period. They can instead look for home care or other services so that old family members have someone to keep them company at all times. With the help of an in home health care software, they can provide the elderly with the care they need and dedicate enough time to visiting them. Alternatively, children of older parents can encourage them to go out, see friends, travel, or go on vacation once in a while, so that they feel less lonely and stressed. Additionally, you can also consider getting all the necessary insurance policies that can make life easier for your parents, including health, life, and final expense insurance (check out this company for various insurance plans for seniors), and a few other medicare plans that can help you provide for them.

Not to forget, family and friends of seniors can also help reduce the risk of premature death by continuing to include older individuals in activities. A simple phone call once in a while can go a long way to prevent feelings of extreme loneliness.

References

Loneliness increases risk of premature death in seniors: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/272705.php
Loneliness is a major health risk for older adults: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-02/uoc-lia021214.php

Image Credits

Elderly Woman: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/982475

Written by Heather Johnson

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, and mother who loves her husband, children, dogs, and cats. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in creative writing and master's degrees in library and information science and English studies with a concentration in linguistics.

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