Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks
Many of us are alone more often as we get older, which makes us vulnerable to social isolation, loneliness, and related health problems. According to National Institute on Aging (NIA) researchers, loneliness and social isolation are risk factors for poor aging outcomes.
Health effects of social isolation, loneliness
Social isolation and loneliness outreach toolkit for social media images and posts. Linked to increased risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions. People who participate in meaningful, productive activities with others live longer, are happier, and have better cognitive function.
Breaking ground in loneliness research
Loneliness, according to his wife, triggers a set of related behavioral and biological processes that contribute to premature death. John T. Cacioppo was a pioneer in the field of social neuroscience, and his research discovered that being alone and loneliness are different but related.
Understanding the biology of loneliness
Loneliness can speed up plaque buildup in arteries, aid cancer cell growth and spread, and promote inflammation in the brain, which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. NIA-funded research shows that having a sense of mission and purpose in life is linked to healthier immune cells.
Researching genetic and social determinants of loneliness
Researchers are trying to identify potential interactions between genes and the environment of older adults affected by social isolation and loneliness. Previous studies have estimated the heritability of loneliness to be between 37 and 55 percent.
Fear of being robbed, distrust of neighbors, limited availability of services, and dilapidated surroundings were among the obstacles faced by study participants. Some older adults with cognitive impairment have had their driver’s license revoked but do not receive help with driving.
How does social isolation affect elderly people?
According to recent research, social isolation increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes by 50%, a risk that may rival that of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. Social isolation was also linked to a 50% increased risk of dementia.
What is the most common cause of social isolation among the elderly?
Seniors’ loneliness and social isolation are typically caused by poor quality or absent social relationships; however, there are a variety of other factors that can contribute to these issues, including being 80 or older, having chronic health problems, and changing family structures.
How did quarantine affect the elderly?
Several studies have linked previous quarantines to mental health consequences such as depression (30), emotional disturbance (31), stress (32), low mood (33), irritability (33), or insomnia (33), as well as higher rates of suicide in the elderly population (34).
Why is social isolation bad for elderly?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, social isolation often leads to poor health habits, with lonely seniors being more likely to smoke, drink excessively, and ignore the need for physical activity. On the other hand, social support can encourage seniors to eat well, exercise, and live healthy lifestyles.
What are the three major health consequences of loneliness?
Loneliness has a wide range of negative physical and mental health consequences, including:
- Increased stress levels.
- Altered brain function.
- Alzheimer’s disease progression.
- Antisocial behavior.
- Cardiovascular disease and stroke5.
- Decreased memory and learning.
- Depression and suicide.
What are the symptoms of social isolation?
What Is Social Isolation and How Does It Affect You?
- Avoiding social interactions, even those that were once pleasurable.
- Canceling plans frequently and feeling relieved when plans are canceled.
- Experiencing anxiety or panic when thinking about social interactions.
What causes social isolation?
Long-term illness, disabilities, transportation issues, unemployment, or exposure to domestic or community violence can all contribute to social isolation and loneliness.
Why do seniors isolate themselves?
Seniors with a high IQ may struggle to connect or maintain a conversation with people of lower IQ. They may also feel awkward or uncomfortable in social situations, leading them to isolate themselves and avoid interactions altogether, compounding their feelings of loneliness.
What are the consequences of social isolation?
Chronic social isolation has been linked to mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, as well as chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, according to research.
Why is quarantine harmful?
The majority of studies found negative psychological effects such as post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, and anger, as well as stressors such as longer quarantine periods, infection fears, frustration, boredom, insufficient supplies, lack of information, financial loss, and stigma.
Can isolation cause forgetfulness?
Isolation has also been linked to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, chronic inflammation, depression, anxiety, perceived stress, and loneliness, with people who feel lonely (and disconnected from others) having a faster rate of cognitive decline than those who do not.
When should the elderly not live alone?
Frequent falls, weight loss, confusion, forgetfulness, and other issues related to illnesses causing physical and/or mental decline, such as Dementia or Alzheimer’s, are among the top 12 warning signs that your aging parents are no longer safe to live alone.
Can you leave an elderly person alone?
Aging parents can be left alone if they can recognize and respond to emergencies quickly; they should be able to physically reach the phone, dial 911, and communicate the emergency. However, when aging parents’ cognitive abilities deteriorate, their thinking and judgment skills suffer.
What specific safety concerns would you have for an elderly patient who lives alone?
Use this elderly home safety checklist to stay safe and healthy if you are a senior living alone or have an elderly family member:
- Install a medical alert system and a fall detection device. Install a good home security system. Install railings and slip-resistant mats. Remove tripping hazards.