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Headline Reads: Loneliness is a Killer!

Excerpt from Daily Cures, Wisdom for Healthy Aging by Connie Mason Michaelis

A major news media ran a story that said: Loneliness is a Killer.  Do you think that’s an exaggeration? Here is what the latest research is telling us: social isolation is more lethal than obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Brigham Young University researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad found that since obesity is associated in the U.S. with 300,000 to 600,000 deaths a year, the implication is that loneliness is a more significant threat to the population than other negative indicators for long life. I doubt that you will ever see lonely as a cause of death on a death certificate, but loneliness increases inflammation, heart disease, dementia, and death rates.

During an annual physical, do you think a physician would ask, “Are you lonely?” And if asked, how many older adults would answer that question truthfully? Who wants to admit that they do not have friends, family, or visitors that they interact with regularly? More than 50% of older adults are single, and most of these are living alone. The nuclear family is deteriorating, and more and more, the social world exists primarily on the Internet. When Elders can no longer drive and participate in their normal activities, isolation begins to grow. For many seniors, friendship circles are dwindling as they outlive their peers. Our world is primed for an epidemic of loneliness. Loneliness manifests itself in destructive behaviors like watching TV all day, refusing to get up and get groomed for the day, and declining invitations when they do come. Many lose their appetite and lose track of the time of day, month, or year. They forget medications and, in general, experience disorientation to time and space. They may literally lose their motive for living. It is crucial for all of us to watch for signs of loneliness among our friends and family members. Our friendship might be a lifesaver!

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