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Loneliness, not Obesity, Biggest killer of elderly From Ramanamurthy M.V.

May 5, 2014


Loneliness is a major health risk for the elderly and it can 
increase the risk of premature death by 14%, warns a new 
research. A meta-analysis showed loneliness has twice 
the impact on early death as obesity. The consequences 
to health are dramatic, as feeling isolated from others can 
disrupt sleep, elevate blood pressure, increase morning 
rises in the stress hormone cortisol, alter gene expression 
in immune cells and increase depression and lower 
overall subjective well-being. John Cacioppo, professor 
of psychology at the University of Chicago who conducted 
the study, said the impact of loneliness on premature 
death is nearly as strong as the impact of disadvantaged 
socioeconomic status, which they found increases the 
chances of dying early by 19%. It is not solitude or physical 
isolation itself, but rather the subjective sense of isolation 
that shows to be so profoundly disruptive. Older people 
living alone are not necessary lonely if they remain socially 
engaged and enjoy the company of those around them.
The research has identified three core dimensions to 
healthy relationships — intimate connectedness, which 
comes from having someone in your life you feel affirms 
who you are; relational connectedness, which comes from 
having face-to-face contacts that are mutually rewarding; 
and collective connectedness, which comes from feeling 
that you’re part of a group or collective beyond individual 
existence. But some aspects of aging, such as blindness 
and loss of hearing, place people at a special risk for 
becoming isolated and lonely. The study should come 
as an eye opener for Indian families as data from India’s 
health ministry show the number of people in the 60-plus 
age group in country is expected to increase from 100 
million in 2013 to 198 million in 2030. India’s Planning 
Commission says the country’s elder population will rise to 
12% of the total population by 2025, 10% of which would 
be bedridden, requiring utmost care.
(Courtesy: The Times of India dated 18th February, 2014.)



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