Many times, we feel alone. Like when we have a problem and it seems that nobody understands. Then you feel alone. But there are others who feel like they might die of loneliness. That is a different thing and as researchers have discovered, an extremely lonely existence could increase an “older person’s chance of premature death by 14 %. That is one very good reason to connect to other people as we age.
John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago and the lead researcher in the study said, “We looked at perceived loneliness versus objective isolation, and how it leads the brain’s biology to change over time. There are toxic effects.” This conclusion has already taken into account lifestyle behaviors, such as diet and exercise. However, the impact of feeling isolated can be profound and it is depicted in disrupted sleep, surges in the stress hormone called cortisol, high blood pressure, compromised immunity, and an increased feeling of depression. “When you are isolated from companionship, then the brain goes into self-preservation mode,” Cacioppo said. For the elderly, loneliness can be particularly threatening.
“Lonely older adults also were 45 percent more likely to die [earlier] than seniors who felt meaningfully connected with others, even after results were adjusted for factors like depression, socioeconomic status and existing health conditions,” the New York Times noted about Perssinotto’s study.
Here in the Philippines, our elderly are often very active. Some live in extended households with grand kids. They feel very useful until death. But in most Western countries, the cases are different. Most of their aged parents live in home care and are often not visited by their kids because of one reason or the other.
This is also a reminder for me. I need to visit my parents more often. Hopefully, this summer, as our schedule improves, we will get to visit them, even if it is only once a month.