Social isolation, the feeling of being separated from others and unable to interact with them, can be mentally devastating to persons in their golden years. This condition impacts their mental health and physical health as well, leading to many problems that can have fatal consequences if left untreated. Older adults who experience even mild forms of social isolation may suffer serious health risks, including an increased risk of early death. Learn about the health risks of social isolation in aging adults here!
According to studies, socially isolated adults have a higher risk of developing respiratory illnesses. Lonely adults were 50% more likely to develop pneumonia than adults who aren’t lonely, which makes sense: loneliness is known to aggravate asthma, which in turn causes people to wheeze more and get sicker. Similarly, people with lonelier social lives have weaker immune systems than their non-lonely counterparts. So, if you don’t want your sweet grandma to get pneumonia next winter, take her out for lunch! On a more serious note, older adults mustn’t be isolated from others as they don’t even know how important socializing is for their health.
High Blood Pressure & Heart Disease
When older adults feel isolated, they may eat more and gain weight. They’re also less likely to exercise or seek preventive health care, increasing their risk of heart disease. And when they are lonely, they’re at an increased risk for depression and suicide. So how can you help your elderly loved ones avoid social isolation? Offer regular check-ins—like phone calls or visits every other week—and make sure family members encourage a healthy social life (volunteering or joining a club) for them.
Research has shown that social isolation can lead to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, and it plays a role in almost half of deaths by suicide. But even if your elderly loved ones don’t suffer from severe depression or thoughts of suicide, social isolation still poses a danger to their health. All told, research suggests that socially isolated people have higher rates of premature death than those who are not: one study found they’re at an 80% greater risk of dying prematurely.
Poor Mental Health
Social isolation is a significant health risk for adults in their golden years. People who lack social contact may be at greater risk of developing depression, leading to other health problems. It’s vital to make an effort to keep in touch with friends and family if your loved ones have a chronic illness or are in poor health because that might reduce their risk of feeling depressed. If they feel socially isolated and unhappy, try talking to the doctor about medications or therapy that could help them re-engage with society. At any age, people who spend time getting together with friends and family tend to live longer than those who do not make time for social interaction. Studies show that people over 50 can benefit from participating in social interaction every day.
Social isolation has been linked to an increased risk of death and a higher risk of health complications in adults in their golden years. If you’re concerned about your senior loved one’s social isolation, encourage them to get out more or even invite friends over on occasion. Social interaction is an important part of well-being, so it’s worth making an effort to make sure your loved one is getting what they need. Interacting with others and creating relationships is suitable for everyone – especially as we age!