If you care about your family and relatives, it might just be a good idea to draw up a “visiting rota” and see them more often. A study reveals that loneliness, especially in older years, is a predictor of early death.
According to the Mirror, being on your own after a certain age is not only emotionally and psychologically devastating, but also physically debilitating as social isolation is a public health issue.
“There’s been an explosion of public awareness here, from local authorities to the Department of Health to the media,” said Paul Cann, founder of The Campaign to End Loneliness.
There’s a lot of evidence linking loneliness to physical illness and to functional and cognitive decline.
“The profound effects of loneliness on health and independence are a critical public health problem,” said study author Dr Carla M Perissinotto, a geriatrician at the University of California.
“It is no longer medically or ethically acceptable to ignore older adults who feel lonely and marginalized,” Dr Carla said.
Research in both London and the US shows that up to 46 per cent of those over 60 report feeling lonely.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology identified a ”loneliness centre” in the brain, a centre best known for its link to depression.
Sophie Andrews, chief executive of The Silver Line helpline, a 24-hour call centre for older people seeking contact with other people, said that she was surprised by the explosion of calls shortly after she started the service three years ago.
They studied 1,604 participants and showed that more than four in 10 reported feelings of loneliness.
Professor John Cacioppo of Chicago University has shown that loneliness over stimulates the body’s stress response. The findings indicated that those affected had higher rates of declining mobility, difficulty in performing routine daily activities and death during six years of follow-up than those who didn’t complain of loneliness.
Loneliness seems to affect women more than men - 70 per cent of the calls to Silver Line are from women.
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