Tags: loneliness | senior | health

Loneliness Tied to Senior Health

Tuesday, 19 June 2012 12:30 PM

Loneliness can cause more than just a case of the blues for seniors. New research shows elderly people who have persistent feelings of loneliness have significantly greater health problems, including many life-threatening conditions.
The study, by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco, suggests doctors and clinicians pay more attention to seniors’ feelings of loneliness when assessing health. Friends and family members may also be helpful and supportive.
"Asking about chronic diseases is not enough," said lead researcher Dr. Carla Perissinotto, a UCSF geriatric specialist. "There's much more going on in people's homes and their communities that is affecting their health. If we don't ask about it, we are missing a very important and independent risk factor.
"We don't think we can change genetics, but we can intervene when someone is lonely and help prevent some functional decline."
To reach its conclusions, the UCSF team analyzed data in the Health and Retirement Study, a national study by the National Institute on Aging of 1,604 older adults between 2002 and 2008. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, focused specifically on loneliness and its health impacts.
Researchers found people who identified themselves as lonely were 59 percent more likely to have declines in health and the ability to perform daily tasks, such as climbing stairs and walking. They were also 45 percent more likely to experience premature death, the researchers found.
One of the more surprising findings was that loneliness did not necessarily correlate with living alone; 43 percent of surveyed older adults felt lonely, yet only 18 percent lived alone.
"In our typical medical model, we don't think of subjective feelings as affecting health," said Perissinotto. "It's intriguing to find that loneliness is independently associated with an increased rate of death and functional decline."

© HealthDay

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Elderly people with persistent feelings of loneliness have more life-threatening health problems.
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 12:30 PM
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