Loneliness isn’t necessarily something we think about in terms of illness or disease risk — and it could be dangerous to your health. Researchers at Yale Medicine recently discovered that in your older years, social isolation can increase your risk of becoming seriously ill or dying. Read on to find out how and why – and to protect your health and that of others, don’t miss this one Certain Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.
Scientists analyzed data from older adults who participated in the National Health and Aging Trends survey and who were admitted to intensive care units between 2011 and 2018. study subjects were asked questions about their social interactions, such as:
talking to family or friends about important matters
visiting relatives or friends
participate in social events or church
Each person’s level of social isolation was then ranked from 0 to 6.
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The researchers found that any increase in social isolation scores was associated with a higher risk of disability and death. The most socially isolated elderly had a 50% higher ‘burden of functional limitations’ in the year after an ICU admission and a 119% higher risk of death.
“Social isolation has become an increasingly pressing issue during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Lauren Ferrante, MD, MHS, a pulmonologist and critical care physician at Yale Medicine and senior author of the study. “Older adults who are socially isolated should be closely monitored after hospital discharge to ensure they receive the medical care and rehabilitation they need to recover. If you know an older adult who is socially isolated and has recently the hospital has been discharged, it’s a good idea to check in with them and make sure they get the help they need.”
One study found that social isolation can increase the risk of dementia in older adults by 50%. And a recent study in Finland found that men who reported feeling lonely for two decades were more likely to develop cancer and had a worse prognosis.
Social isolation triggers a stress response in the body, which can lead to chronic inflammation, a major risk factor for serious illness. According to a study published in the news Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, this long-term inflammation can lead to the development of cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia — all conditions that have been repeatedly linked to loneliness. And to get through this pandemic as healthy as possible, don’t miss this one 35 places you are most likely to get COVID.