Serious Risk for Seniors – Loneliness

December 23, 2015 6:45 pm0 commentsViews: 102

Researchers have found that feeling of loneliness has severe health risk for older people. Scientists from University of Chicago found that long term feeling of loneliness can be more dangerous than being heavily overweight. They observed around 2000 individuals aged older than 50 years for about 6 years. After the analysis it was clear that those reported being lonely had 14% more risk of dying. Moreover, poverty also increased the early death risk by 19%.

Loneliness in Older

Loneliness in Older

Loneliness is on increase?

There was very serious point by the findings, that life expectation has risen and individuals are living far from families or living alone in consistently increased number. Another research on loneliness in the older Britons had found that more than a fifth felt lonely round the clock, also a quarter became more lonely over some years.

This separation and loneliness is putting very serious effect on physical and mental health of older people. It has also been proved that individuals between 20 to 40% of the older people face loneliness  specially in their retirement period.

One of the professor (John Cacioppo) from the University of Chicago said, there was a prominent difference in the rate of physical and mental health decline as people aged, and these differences can be linked to the number of satisfying relationships they maintain.

John Cacioppo said, “We have mythic notions of retirement, We think that retirement means leaving friends and family, and buying a place down in Florida, where it is warm, and living happily ever after. But that’s probably not the best idea. 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.” According to him, a lot of studies prove that people who remained close to colleagues after their retirement and keep close friendships are normally less lonely. He also added that “People are becoming more isolated, and this health problem is likely to grow”.

Loneliness Boosts Blood Pressure

In a study by the University of Chicago, published in Psychology and Aging, a direct relation has been found between long-lasting feelings of loneliness and increase in the blood pressure.

Researchers studied 229 people between 50 to 68 years of age for five years. People under study were asked to rate their link with others, by the statements like “I have a lot in common with people around me” and “I can find companionship when I want it.”

During the study it was found a that there is a clear connection between feelings of loneliness and rising of blood pressure.

“The increase associated with loneliness wasn’t observable until two years into the study, but then continued to increase until four years later,” reported Hawkley (one of researchers).

Among the people in the study, loneliest most people face blood pressure go up by 14.4 mm more than as compared to those who were most socially contented ones around the four year study duration. This raise in blood pressure can also be the reason of fear about the social connections in lonely individuals of older age.

Hawkley said, “Loneliness is characterized by a motivational impulse to connect with others but also a fear of negative evaluation, rejection, and disappointment, We hypothesize that threats to one’s sense of safety and security with others are toxic components of loneliness, and that hypervigilance for social threat may contribute to alterations in physiological functioning, including elevated blood pressure.”

Reduce Loneliness by Changing Your Thinking approach

Previously it was considered that group formats are helpful, but the latest review has established no benefit neither from individual nor from group interventions.

“That is not that surprising, because bringing a bunch of lonely people together is not expected to work if you understand the root causes of loneliness,” said Masi. “Several studies have shown that lonely people have incorrect assumptions about themselves and about how other people perceive them. If you bring them all together, it is like bringing people with abnormal perceptions together, and they are not necessarily going to click.”

In order to find out the most efficient method of decreasing loneliness, researchers studied the history of research on this topic; which were published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, the quantitative review of those studies found that the best interventions targeted social cognition rather than the social skills or opportunities for the social interaction.

“We’re getting a better understanding of loneliness, that it’s more of a cognitive issue and is subject to change,” said Christopher Masi, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and lead author of study.

This implies that reducing or stopping loneliness cannot be achieved by just giving more people to network or communicate with. Rather coaching and training the people to break the series or phases of negative thoughts about the self-respect, self-confidence and how other perceive them is more effective. Cognitive behavioral therapy, which is used to treat stress, depression and other disorders has also been helpful in this regard.

Do care for your older ones!


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