You’d never disregard a tumor or sudden unexplained pain. You’d see a doctor as soon as possible.
And something like a heart attack or broken bone would send you straight to the emergency room.
Yet there’s another health threat that you ARE likely to disregard. And in many ways, it can be JUST as hazardous as those other medical emergencies.
And that is loneliness.
Maybe you’re too embarrassed to admit when you’re feeling isolated. Or perhaps, like many folks, you find it hard to believe loneliness can actually BE life-threatening.
But a new University of Michigan study has blown the lid off that myth once and for all. Because researchers have found isolation can send your risk of early death right through the roof.
Isolation is linked to poor health
U of M researchers polled more than 2000 people over the age of 50 for their new study. One in four of the volunteers admitted to feeling lonely and isolated some of the time. And one in three reported they lacked regular companionship.
And it turns out they were paying a hefty price for those feelings.
The more isolated a volunteer was, the more likely they were to be in poor health both physically and emotionally. And folks who felt lonelier were also more likely to admit to having poor health habits.
On the other hand, the volunteers who had plenty of companionship were far healthier on average. And that’s not all.
They were also more likely to get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, and get better quality sleep.
Loneliness can drive you into an early grave
And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen how social isolation can be downright hazardous to your health, either. Past research has revealed loneliness can be as bad for you as smoking, obesity, or being a couch potato.
While the new study confirms it… isolation can really take a toll on you as you age.
In fact, folks who are lonely have a 26 percent greater risk of dying early than their peers who have friendships and connections outside the home.
And that “outside” factor turns out to be key. Because in some cases even people who lived with their children reported feeling isolated or lonely.
Sometimes the hustle and bustle of family life can leave you feeling like you’re on the outside looking in. Or even worse, you may feel like a burden to your loved ones.
But having friends to turn to, and activities to occupy your time, away from home can help.
Reach out to burst the isolation bubble
Being isolated all the time can do a real number on your health. And if you ignore those feelings for too long and it could even send you to an early grave
But you have the power to turn things around. Channel your inner social butterfly, and it won’t be long before you start to see improvements in your physical and mental health.
Need some help getting started? Try one of these tricks…
Give your local senior center, church or library a call. Ask about any free classes, activities, or lectures that are on the schedule. And then get out and mingle as often as possible.
Use your tablet, smartphone, or PC to locate groups that you can join. For example, AARP.com hosts Connect2Effect an online community designed to fight isolation and loneliness. Other websites such as stitch.net and meetup.com can help you connect with other like-minded folks for activities and companionship.
Get a “job”:
Retirement is supposed to be great. But the truth is it can be downright lonely. So why not look for a part-time volunteer or paid position? It will get you out of the house and allow you to use some of your skills and talents with others.
And keep in mind you’re far from the only one who is feeling lonely and isolated. So when you meet someone you’d like to get to know better, don’t wait for an invitation. Just go ahead and ask him or her to join you for coffee or a stroll around the park. You might end up with a new friend.