Loneliness is more than a feeling. In fact, as per a study, the emotion posses the power to substantially affect the health of senior citizens. The study observes that loneliness or “perceived isolation” is as harmful as any other risk factors for death such as smoking and obesity.
Published in the peer-reviewed journal of Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), the researchers explained loneliness as an emotional state of perceived isolation which increases early death risk in heart patients.
The researchers also observed that if the findings are taken into consideration, a proper understanding of this emotion can help health care professionals to draw the connection between lonely adults and their community supports as well as social networks.
“Our health care system and society are increasingly recognising loneliness as a serious public health problem, but clinicians are often unprepared to properly access and manage lonely patients,” said Nathan Stall, lead researcher of the study, and a research fellow at the University of Toronto and Women’s College Research Institute, and a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Ontario.
Previous studies have also suggested how loneliness rivals obesity and smoking. In a survey conducted by health insurer Cigna, it was found that widespread loneliness was prevalent with nearly half of Americans reporting they feel alone, isolated, or left out at least some of the time. Between the ages of 23-37 years and 18-22 years, it was found that loneliness was at its peak.
In India, with a population of more than a billion, one in every two elderly individuals suffers from loneliness, as per a 2010 study by Agewell Foundation. In addition, the study highlights that every fifth senior citizen in the country is in need of some kind of psychological counselling. “It does not only weaken their mental health but also affects physical health in old age,” the study mentioned.