Loneliness linked to higher death risk in older people

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It turns out that feeling lonely does more than just make us sad; it can also make us physically weaker, especially as we get older.

Researchers from Amsterdam and Glasgow have been looking into this, and they’ve discovered some important things.

Imagine having fewer people to talk to or feeling like you don’t have enough friends. For older people, this isn’t just about feeling left out; it can actually lead to their bodies becoming frailer.

Frailty means they might not walk as quickly, lose muscle strength, or even start losing weight without trying. When someone gets frailer, they’re more likely to fall, feel really sad (depression), or have trouble remembering things.

This idea got a lot of attention during the COVID-19 pandemic when many of us were stuck at home, missing our friends and family.

Scientists like Emiel Hoogendijk and Peter Hanlon and their team decided to dig deeper. They looked at over 130 studies and found a clear link: feeling lonely or isolated can lead to physical frailty.

But it’s not just about feeling lonely. If you’re physically weaker, you might not go out as much, which means you’ll see fewer people and feel even lonelier. It’s like a cycle that keeps going around and around.

And it’s not just a small problem. The US Surgeon General said being lonely is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day! Lonely people might feel more depressed, get sick more often, and even live a less healthy lifestyle, which can affect their immune system.

So, what do we do about it? The researchers say we need to look at the big picture. When we’re taking care of older people, we should think about their physical health, but also how they’re doing socially and mentally.

There’s no easy fix for loneliness, but we’re learning more about how to help. Things like community activities can really make a difference by helping older adults make new friends and feel more connected.

In short, this research tells us how important it is to stay connected with others, especially as we get older. Feeling part of a community can help keep our bodies stronger and our minds sharper.

It’s a reminder to check in on our older friends and family members, making sure they’re not just okay physically, but also feeling good about their social lives.

If you care about depression, please read studies about vegetarianism linked to higher risk of depression, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.

For more information about nutrition, please read studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.

The research findings can be found in The Lancet Healthy Longevity.

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