According to recent research, loneliness and social isolation are marked health concerns for people of all ages in the U.S. from teenagers to senior citizens. Chronic loneliness has been associated with lessened life-span, depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease (strokes and heart attacks) and early death. This has been increasingly studied in older adults.
Recently, a study done by researchers at the University of Michigan, surveyed 2,000 Americans between the ages of 50-80. One in three seniors expressed a lack of companionship at least some of the time, and 27% felt isolated. Women were more likely than men to report these symptoms. The main underlying causes of loneliness included death of a spouse, health restrictions making socialization more difficult and unmet social expectations.
Looking more deeply into those who felt socially isolated, 28% reported fair or poor physical health, compared to 13% of those who did not feel isolated.
According to researchers, loneliness can be reversed by looking at why a person is feeling isolated or lonely. The poll found that seniors who lived with their children were more likely to feel isolated and lack of companionship than those that didn’t. Even if a person is living in a bustling household, he or she may still feel isolated due to lack of communication or true interest into their past experiences. Interesting, right?
Ultimately, it comes down to the quality of the relationship. Researchers found that finding meaningful relationships or social activities had a huge impact on reversing loneliness. Such things as volunteering, visiting an old friend or taking up a new hobby were suggestions, which increased valuable social contact.
Lesson to be learned – stay social and engage in activities that have both mental and physical benefits.
For me, my tennis league is one of my weekly activities which gets me out socializing while also getting my heart pumping. What things can you do?