You may have never heard the term chronic loneliness but it’s a very real problem for those who live alone, especially the elderly. Recent studies have determined that there is a correlation between chronic loneliness and health issues, including premature death.
What is Chronic Loneliness?
Chronic loneliness, while somewhat self explanatory, isn’t simply the fact of being alone for long periods but also includes affecting your mental state; it is defined by many as a chronic illness. According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, 60 million Americans suffer from loneliness; making it an increasing epidemic.
The Side Effects of Chronic Loneliness
- Shortened Life Span – Research shows those 65+ who suffer from chronic loneliness are just as at risk of death as smokers and those who are obese.
- Blood Pressure – Increased blood pressure is a common side effect that can cause serious health risks.
- Inflammation – Inflammation, as a side effect of chronic loneliness, can actually result in a number of health problems.
- Depression – Often the lack of social contact and inability to get outside of their home, the elderly can suffer from depression. Those who have chronic loneliness are at a higher risk of depression.
- Social Dysfunction – When a person rarely comes in contact with the outside world they can become socially paranoid and fearful. This can make them less likely to go out and be with others, making them even more lonely.
- Faster Cognitive Decline – A recent study presented by the Alzheimer’s Association showed that those who suffer from chronic loneliness had cognitive decline 20% faster than those who were not alone.
3 Ways to Combat Chronic Loneliness in Seniors
- Utilize Local Senior Centers – There are a number of local senior centers (in the Delaware, MD area) that offer a variety of programs and activities. Get involved with a local senior center program so that you can mingle with others your age and enjoy adventures such as bus trips, bingo, political talks and more.
- Conversation – If you know someone who may be suffering from chronic loneliness make a phone call to them; be persistent because they may not call you back if you leave a message, so you call them. If you’re feeling lonely, reach out to family, friends and neighbors with a simple “Hello” to start a conversation over the phone or in person.
- Companionship – Some in-home caregiver agencies offer companionship caregivers who can come to your home and spend time with you doing various activities; driving you places, visiting in your home, and more.
Chronic loneliness in seniors reduces their quality of life drastically, yet can be easily addressed; making a world of difference in how they approach each new day.
Contact us today if you or someone you love could be suffering from chronic loneliness!
The Boston Globe – Lifestyle, Dangers of Loneliness, Karen Weintraub, April 24, 2015
Health Matters with Dr. Sanjay Gupta – Why You Should Treat Loneliness As a Chronic Disease, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, August 4, 2015
Photo by The U.S. National Archives