Every time you watch the news or read what’s going on in the world, someone is doing something that’s crazy. Seems the whole world has gone crazy.
As a result, a lot of people are becoming more isolated. Don’t let that happen to you.
Yes, there are a lot of reasons people become socially isolated. Hearing and visual impairment, difficulty walking, depression, and fatigue to name the most common.
But becoming isolated can be deadly?
One recent study looked at the effect of social isolation in the over-50 crowd. It found that it can increase the rate of death by as much as 48%!
That’s an astounding statistic. Previous studies have shown that people who are isolated are more likely to develop high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, sleep disturbances, adrenal exhaustion, increased markers of inflammation, decreased memory and cognition, and decreased immunity.
Of course, people who feel lonely are more likely to isolate themselves from society. But is it the social isolation per se, or simply the feeling of loneliness that creates all these problems? That’s an important differentiation. The same study also gives the surprising answer to this question.
The researchers looked at 6,500 men and women aged 52 and older. They measured their level of social isolation in terms of contact with family and friends and participation in civic organizations. They measured their degree of loneliness using a questionnaire. They followed the group for the next seven years on average and measured the death rate from all causes.
They found that the death rate was 26% higher in the more socially isolated men and women. And in the men and women who kept the most to themselves the increase in death rate climbed to 48%. However, contrary to expectation, the feeling of loneliness did not increase the death rate. The researchers concluded that, “Although both isolation and loneliness impair quality of life and well-being, efforts to reduce isolation are likely to be more relevant to mortality.”
So even if you don’t feel lonely, if you find yourself staying in the house all the time taking vitamins and eating sprouts and running on the treadmill by yourself, maybe that’s not going to be enough. Maybe you need to get involved with your community, church, or golf club.
Or maybe there’s more to it? Many people who isolate themselves do it because of poor hearing, lack of balance, or pain. Others may lack motivation to do much because they have hormonal or nutritional deficiencies. Your doctor can help. There are remedies for these problems. Getting old is a battle, but it’s a really good idea to get out of your trench every now and then.
Steptoe, A., A. Shankar, P. Demakakos, and J. Wardle. “Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 April 9; 110(15):5797-801.