It is a well know fact that senior citizens are at a greater risk for social isolation, which all to often causes illness, depression and dementia. But now scientists say there are medical causes and remedies for the condition.
Genomics researcher, Steve Cole, professor of medicine, psychiatry, and behavioral-science at ULCA School of Medicine, really was unconcerned about loneliness and its pain until he viewed a white blood cell through a microscope, then his life changed.
This white cell was from one of a group of very lonely, older men and women. The white blood cell showed all the signs of being in a high alert, as though they were fighting a disease. Actually, the disease was loneliness.
In 2007 Cole published a study on the condition called loneliness, and the public response was overwhelming. There was steady stream of letters from ordinary people telling how loneliness had destroyed the lives of their loved ones.
Louise Hawkley, senior research scientist at the University of Chicago said “ Loneliness is a universal human experience, and being the social animals we are, there must be implications when those social connections are not satisfied.” There is a human need to be embedded, connected, and integrated in a social network. When that network is missing, “the consequences are very real in terms of mental and physical health.”
A study by AARP’s Public Policy Institute at Stanford and Harvard Universities found that seniors living in social isolation adds almost $7 billion to the cost of Medicare, due to longer hospitals stay because of no community support at home.
Scientist are finding regularly, how loneliness attacks our bodies and shortens our lives. Those suffering from loneliness have a raised risk of a fatal heart attack or other serious diseases. Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, suicide, and even the common cold are more common with loneliness than obesity, and it’s the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
AARP The Magazine
By Lynn Darling
Next Week We’ll Tell of the Research Being done on Senior Loneliness.