Many have suggested that social isolation and loneliness can be harmful to our health, especially as we get older. Now we have scientific proof that loneliness is indeed a potential killer. In fact, when it comes to the health of your heart, living a life of loneliness can actually be worse for you than smoking, obesity or lack of exercise.
This provocative idea was put forth in a recent article we found on the website NextAvenue.org. The article is called “What Loneliness is Doing to Your Heart,” and we encourage you to click here to read it. This knowledge could help save the life of someone you care about.
The article is based on a review of 23 scientific studies which was just published in a British medical journal called Heart. The review documented evidence that people with “poor social relationships” had a 29 percent higher risk of new diagnosis of heart disease. The risk of stroke was even higher, about 32 percent. NextAvenue states, “That puts loneliness and social isolation on par with other known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as anxiety and job strain…and it exceeds the risk posed by physical inactivity and obesity.” There’s even a quote from an earlier Brigham Young University study that says loneliness is worse for our physical health than the effects of smoking 15 cigarettes each day!
The consequences of this information are potentially huge. Cardiovascular disease is the most expensive illness in the US, accounting for more than $190 billion in spending in 2015. Imagine the impact some relatively simple “loneliness-prevention projects” could have on that cost. This might be an area where churches, service clubs and other social groups could really make a significant difference in the lives of seniors. It should also make you stop and think carefully if your parent or other loved one is living alone and seldom interacting socially.
To clarify, the article does make it clear that “being alone” is not in and of itself the problem. Many people are happy living by themselves and are able to stay physically and intellectually active. The issue is how we feel about our level of social interaction. NextAvenue says that prolonged periods of unhappiness about how isolated and lonely we are can be “disastrous” for our sense of well-being. Sadly, the problem seems to be getting worse: the number of Americans who say they have no close confidants has tripled in the past 20 years.
Here at AgingOptions we recognize that a strong retirement plan must include planning for our social life as we age. If we fail to do so we risk preventable health problems which will very likely cause our assets to be depleted when we are forced prematurely into institutional care. Retirement is a multi-faceted time of life, and planning retirement demands a wide-ranging, comprehensive plan. We call our unique process LifePlanning. A LifePlan helps you ensure that your social needs will be met as you make well thought-out choices about your housing options. It protects your assets with a strong financial plan. It takes your need for affordable health insurance into account. It includes all the legal documents you will need as you age. We also place special emphasis on family communication, so that those closest to you fully understand your wishes, desires and plans.
We’re convinced that every senior would benefit immeasurably with a LifePlan in place. You can find out more about this ground-breaking process by attending one of our free, no-obligation LifePlanning Seminars, held at locations throughout the area. We encourage you to bring all your questions and come prepared for an information-packed event. For details and registration, call our office – or click on the Upcoming Events tab and register online. Don’t let a lack of preparation leave you isolated and vulnerable! Let us help you prepare a personally tailored blueprint for a secure, fruitful retirement. We’ll see you soon.
(originally reported at www.nextavenue.org)