Very few of us like being alone all of the time and if you find yourself isolated, you might have more troubles than you realize. Did you realize that there are some 42.6 million adults over the age of 45 in the United States who are suffering from chronic loneliness? It was found that this type of loneliness was a serious issue.
This study was done by the American Psychological Association and the results were rather astounding. Another study showed that the negative health effects of being lonely were so profound that it was worse than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
The study is from 2015 and came from researchers at Brigham Young University. In order to prove their theory that loneliness was just as bad as smoking 15 cigs per day, they analyzed a number of health studies. All in all, over 3 million people participated in those studies and data was gathered associated with loneliness, social isolation and living alone.
Julianne Holt-Lunstad was the lead author and she explains it in this way: “the result of this study is comparable to obesity; something that public health takes very seriously.” She also added that the results of the 2015 study are “comparable to the risk of smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. It exceeds the risk of alcohol consumption, it exceeds the risk of physical inactivity, obesity, and it exceeds the risk of air pollution.”
Another interesting factor that was determined by the study is that there was a 50% reduction if premature death risk when a social connection was established. Considering that one-person households account for about 28% of all households, this could be a serious issue.
According to Hold-Lunstad, isolation and loneliness might not have reached the mainstream because the terms are somewhat vague. Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a clinical psychologist, and gerontologist at the Rotman Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto said that the easiest way to combat this problem is to get out and be around others. Doing so can alter the levels of stress hormones. Being around others in a social setting can help people to maintain a healthy routine.
It is thought that the government needs to step in and help deal with the loneliness epidemic. Dipika Damerla, Ontario Minister of Seniors Affairs explains that the Liberal Party has set aside funding to help combat social isolation among older individuals. She says: “I can tell you with confidence that the entire $155-million plan marries these two ideas which is that people want to live on their own as long as they can, but not at the cost of getting socially isolated.”
What can be done about chronic loneliness? According to Dr. Oren Amitay, a Toronto psychologist, people can engage in a hobby or keep busy with other projects that promote a purpose. This is especially true of seniors and when limited mobility is an issue, a pet may help.