Loneliness shortens life span. That is the startling conclusion of a study by a psychologist at the University of Chicago. He found that an individual’s mental and physical health in old age was linked to how many meaningful relationships they had with friends and family. Chronic loneliness shortens a person’s life by 14%, which is a greater risk than obesity.
“And if you don’t have good friends that you can talk to on the phone,” says relationship expert Mary Jo Rapini. “Or that will come and pick you up, or come and visit, you are very vulnerable to the effects of loneliness.”
When taken into account with the fact that due to aging Baby Boomers between 2011 and 2030 and average of 10,000 people will turn 65 each and every day. Loneliness, and its relation to Depression, can put a major drag on our health care system.
Perhaps a long retirement in an isolated coastal area is not in everyone’s best interest. Research found the people who stay in touch with co-workers and friends after retirement fare much better than those who isolate themselves.
“Especially if it is the man who is retired,” says Rapini. “Because men socially have less networks available to them.”
For whatever reason, and that isn’t fully understood, chronic loneliness causes higher levels of cortisol to be released into the system, which raises risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Researchers suggest the higher cortisol level could be related to a deterioration of sleep quality they have discovered among lonely people.
“When you are lonely you secrete stress hormones that can actually increase your chance of obesity, makes it so you don’t sleep as well, increases your anxiety,” Rapini tells KTRH News.
Especially at risk are individuals who lose mobility, which often limits social interactions.
Couples who have been married more than 50 years, on average, die within 18 months of one another. The intimacy developed over time and through a lifetime of shared experiences cannot generally be replaced, and leads to a profound sense of loneliness.