Most of us have heard stories of folks who “died of loneliness” after losing a spouse or becoming separated from their friends or family. These may have always seemed like just cautionary tales to remind you how important friends and family are. But according to a new study, they may in fact be true.
Because new research has found loneliness can literally kill.
We’ve known for some time that people with active social lives tend to be healthier. But now we know being lonely may actually increase your chance of early death, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic interviewed 1700 senior volunteers with heart failure. They questioned participants about feeling socially isolated. And they asked if they felt like they had a strong social circle.
By the end of the study, the folks who reported feeling isolated were…
- 6 times more likely to need the emergency room
- 7 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital
- 7 times more likely to die
Other research has confirmed that chronic loneliness can harm our quality of life and drive us into an early grave. A study conducted at the University of California, for example, revealed just how vulnerable being isolated can make us.
Researchers found that 24.8 percent of the seniors who reported feeling isolated and lonely were having a difficult time performing activities of daily living such as maintaining personal hygiene, making meals and eating regularly.
And those same lonely folks were 45 percent more likely to die early.
In other words, making an effort to stay connected and socialize is every bit as important as other steps you take to stay healthy such as taking your vitamins and watching your diet. In fact, it could literally save your life.
5 lifesaving loneliness cures to try today
So if you’re feeling lonely right now, or just in danger of becoming isolated because of age, a move or other changes in your life, it’s time do something about it
Following are five things you can do TODAY to fight back against loneliness.
1. Get a vision and hearing test:
You may wonder what vision and hearing have to do with loneliness. Well experts say when either fade you can become unable to participate fully in the world around you. Suddenly you can feel isolated, even in a crowd.
Staying on top of your vision and hearing health with regular screenings can head off loneliness before it strikes. And a new pair of glasses or hearing aid could literally save your life.
2. Adopt a pet:
Adopting a pet has a bunch of health benefits, including fighting off loneliness. Four legged furry friends provide us with unconditional love. And they can help keep us active through play and, in some cases, daily walks.
But it turns out fluffy companions aren’t the only ones which can help us fight off loneliness. If a dog or cat isn’t an option, any kind of pet that depends on you to provide some kind of care can make you feel far less isolated.
In one study, simply caring for pet crickets helped Korean seniors feel less depressed and isolated. And while crickets might not be your idea of an ideal pet, caring for a fish, for example, could do the same for you.
Feeling left out and isolated can make you forget about all the things you have to offer other folks. Everyone has skills and talents which they can use to help others. And volunteering is the perfect way to do that.
Maybe you’re a whiz at numbers and can spare some time to tutor a child who is struggling with math. Or if your talent is knitting, maybe making caps for the newborns at a nearby hospital is a way for you to reach out. Or perhaps you’ve always been a great listener and you could volunteer a few hours manning the help line for a nearby church.
And of course, when you volunteer you benefit too. Knowing someone is depending on you, and that you’re helping others, is the perfect antidote for loneliness.
4. Find a community:
Find a community that helps you connect with others. Check the yellow pages or online for nearby senior centers and churches. Give them a call to see what kinds of activities they have planned. Check the bulletin board at your local library or grocery store for activities or groups that might interest you such as a book club or art class.
If you’re unable to get out of the house embrace technology. There are online groups, from virtual senior centers to alumni associations you can join. You can even run your own book club via conference call or video chat for other folks who can’t get out or who live far away from each other.
5. Tell people:
It’s hard to admit to others that you’re feeling lonely. No one likes to talk about his or her problems, or worse to feel like a burden.
But the truth is 42.6 million adults struggle with chronic loneliness, so you’re NOT alone in feeling this way. Which means the odds are good that if you’re brave enough to admit it to other folks, you’ll find many of them are feeling the same way. And being supportive to someone else who is feeling lonely will cure your own case of loneliness every single time.
Don’t let loneliness ruin your life. Or worse, end it early. Fight back with these five loneliness cures.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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