We think we should start by saying that social isolation is not the same as loneliness. In short, isolated people do not necessarily have to be lonely. That’s because even when people are surrounded by others, they might experience loneliness. Even though it’s tough to distinguish between social isolation and loneliness, and the terms are commonly used interchangeably, there’s substantial evidence that many persons 50 years old and above feel lonely or socially isolated in ways that jeopardize their health. According to studies, social isolation is linked to a 50% greater incidence of dementia. Stay on this page if you want to know the detailed links between loneliness and dementia.
Impact on the Brain
Loneliness has been shown to have a direct effect on the brain. It has the potential to elevate stress or disrupt sleep, both of which can have an impact on brain function. In fact, research has found that people who are cognitively sound but have a high sense of loneliness have greater levels of tau and amyloid, two compounds that build up in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Pandemic Has Made it Worse
The COVID-19 crisis has struck some people harder than others, but older adults have been terribly, challengingly hit by the fast-changing conditions and the necessity to self-isolate since social isolation is a key part of preventing the coronavirus illness and related deaths.
Many of the issues that social distancing has presented may be readily remedied through digital platforms for folks who are more technologically inclined. This could be through video chatting with loved ones or finding new friends. But this has not been an option for individuals who are not digitally skilled or who do not have access to a steady internet connection.
Long-Lasting Health Damage
The effects of loneliness on the wellbeing and lifespan of older persons are significant, according to the authors of a 2020 research. Meta-analyses have discovered that loneliness in older persons is linked to a 26% greater risk of all-cause death and a 30% elevated chance of stroke or acute coronary artery attack.
Loneliness and social isolation can lead to undesirable habits. It’s also a significant social burden that can trigger stress reactions in the body. When this reaction is sustained, it can contribute to greater inflammation and lowered immunity, especially in the elderly.
Inflammation is the body’s way of responding to combat injuries or mending a wound, but it may be dangerous if left unmanaged. Hormonal changes play a critical role in preventing inflammation from spiraling out of control. Long-term stress, on the other hand, makes the body less susceptible to the impact of stress hormones, resulting in higher inflammatory responses and, eventually, illness.
The loneliness that older persons are facing as a result of the coronavirus epidemic is posing new mental health dangers, but people can take steps to safeguard themselves. Rather than concentrating on what isn’t doable right now, consider refocusing your mind on what you can do to stay in touch. This might involve making plans to contact a different friend or relative on certain days, as well as doing new things at home such as online learning or joining virtual cooking clubs.