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Loneliness Could be More Lethal than Obesity for Seniors

Update Date: Feb 17, 2014 09:33 AM EST
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For years researchers have stressed the importance of maintaining both good physical and mental health statuses. In a new study, researchers examined the effects of extreme loneliness on the overall health of seniors. They found that for the older population, loneliness could be more lethal than obesity.

For this research, the team headed by John Cacioppo, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, monitored over 2,000 elderly participants who were over the age of 50. The researchers focused on factors such as satisfying relationships, any declines in physical and mental health over time, premature death risk, the effects of stress and the ability to recover from adversity.

Based from this 2010 meta-analysis, the researchers concluded that for seniors' health, feeling alone was two times more deadly than obesity. People who reported being lonely had a 14 percent higher risk of dying in comparison to the participants who did not report feeling lonely. The team stated that feeling alone could negatively affect sleeping patterns, increase high blood pressure and increase risk of depression. The team identified three core variables tied to healthy relationships, which were intimate connectedness, relational connectedness and collective connectedness.

"We have mythic notions of retirement. We think that retirement means leaving friends and family and buying a place down in Florida where it is warm and living happily ever after. But that's probably not the best idea," Cacioppo said reported by the Guardian. "We find people who continue to interact with co-workers after retirement and have friends close by are less lonely. Take time to enjoy yourself and share good times with family and friends. Non-lonely people enjoy themselves with other people."

Cacioppo stressed the importance of maintaining a good support group in leading an overall healthy lifestyle. He stated that feeling alone is not about being physically alone but rather, feeling isolated from other people. The findings were presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Meeting in Chicago, IL.

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