Recent research shows that seniors who are socially engaged are more likely to lead healthier lives and live longer when compared to seniors that feel isolated or ones that lack companionship. The study conducted has been one of the largest ever to focus and emphasize loneliness as a separate condition than general depression. Researchers from the University of California who conducted the study said that they were not surprised by the results due to the stress caused by loneliness.
Through the six year study course researchers measured the health outcomes of loneliness through surveys administered to 1603 seniors, with a mean age of 71 years old. Through the six year time span 22.8% of those that passed away experienced feelings of loneliness, social isolation, or lack of companionship where as only 14.2% were said to have felt socially satisfied at the time.
Outside of longevity in life it was found that many that had a decline in their ability to perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, transferring, dressing, eating and toileting had experienced the same feelings of solitude and social isolation. Overall 24.8% lonely feeling seniors had a decline in heath where 12.5% of the non-lonely had shown a decline.
In general the research shows that we can’t emphasize enough on the importance of social interaction and engagement among seniors, especially with others from their generation. Feelings of being alone or feelings of isolation may still occur at times due to being unable to connect with children and grandchildren due to generational differences, however encouraging socially settings and atmospheres can offer other opportunities to become social.
Check out more details on the research in the San Francisco Chronicle, Loneliness Lethal for Seniors, UCSF Study Says, or the article Loneliness in Older Persons, A Predictor of Functional Decline and Death in the Archives of Internal Medicine about the study.