Extreme loneliness worse than obesity: Study

WENN.COM

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

A long-term feeling of extreme loneliness can have a worse impact on increasing potentially lethal health risks than obesity, scientists claim.

Chronic loneliness increases the chances of premature death by 14%, which is as much of an increase as that caused by being overweight and nearly as bad as poverty in terms of undermining an individual's long-term level of health.

An increase in life expectancy mean more people are spending greater portions of their lives alone, and this is having a serious impact on both mental and physical health. Research suggests that at any given time between 20 and 40% of older adults feel lonely as people live alone or become isolated from relatives and friends, particularly during retirement.

A Mental Health Foundation survey found that 10% of Brits frequently feel lonely, a third believe a close friend or relative is very lonely and half think that people are getting lonelier in general.

A study of 2,000 Americans aged 50 or older which followed them over six years showed that the degree to which they felt lonely could be linked to their overall risk of death due to ill health at the end of this period.

University of Chicago psychologist Professor John Cacioppo said there was a noted differences in the rate of decline in physical and mental health as people aged, and that these differences could be linked to the amount of satisfying relationships they keep.

He said, "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. Retiring to Florida to live 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."

Cacioppo said that studies around the world confirmed that people who stayed close to colleagues after retirement and maintained close friendships are less lonely, with results remaining the same regardless of whether the individual is married or lived near friends or family.

 


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