Feeling intense loneliness can increase an older person’ s chances of premature death by 14 percent, according to research by John Cacioppo, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.
Cacioppo and his colleagues’ work shows that the impact associated with loneliness on premature death is nearly as strong as the impact associated with disadvantaged socioeconomic status, which they discovered increases the chances of dying early by 19 percent. A 2010 meta-analysis showed that loneliness has two times the impact on early death because does obesity, he said.
Cacioppo, the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University, joined up with other scholars at a seminar on “ The Science of Resistant Aging” Feb. 16 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual meeting in Chicago.
The researchers looked at dramatic differences in the rate of decline in physical and mental health because people age. Cacioppo and co-workers have examined the role associated with satisfying relationships on older people to build up their resilience, the ability to bounce back right after adversity and grow from strains in life.
The consequences to health are dramatic, as feeling isolated from others can affect sleep, elevate blood pressure, increase early morning rises in the stress hormone cortisol, alter gene expression in defense cells, and increase depression plus lower overall subjective well-being, Cacioppo pointed out in a talk, “ Rewarding Social Connections Promote Successful Aging. ”
Cacioppo, among the nation’ s leading experts on loneliness, said older people can stay away from the consequences of loneliness by remaining in touch with former co-workers, taking part in family traditions, and sharing happy times with family and friends — all of which gives older adults a chance to connect others about whom they care plus who care about them.
“ Retiring to Florida to reside in a warmer climate among strangers isn’ t necessarily a good idea if it means you are disconnected from the people who mean the most to you, ” said Cacioppo. Population changes make learning the role of loneliness and health all the more important, he explained.
“ We are experiencing a silver tsunami demographically. The baby boomers are reaching retirement age. Each day among 2011 and 2030, an average of ten, 000 people will turn 65, ” he said. “ People have to think about how to protect themselves from depression, low subjective well-being plus early mortality. ”
Although some people are happy to be alone, most people thrive from social situations in which they provide mutual support plus develop strong rapport. Evolution urged people to work together to survive and appropriately most people enjoy companionship over being alone.
Research by Cacioppo and his colleagues has identified three core dimensions to healthful relationships — intimate connectedness, which comes from having someone in your life you are feeling affirms who you are; relational connectedness, which comes from having face-to-face contacts that are mutually rewarding; and collective connectedness, which comes from feeling that you’ re part of a group or collective beyond individual existence.
It is not solitude or physical isolation itself, but rather the subjective sense associated with isolation that Cacioppo’ s function shows to be so profoundly troublesome. Older people living alone are not required lonely if they remain socially engaged and enjoy the company of those around them. Some aspects of aging, such as blindness and loss of hearing, however , location people at a special risk to get becoming isolated and lonely, he or she said.