Look at all the lonely people: A lack of connection is a public-health problem
2019-05-14 from theglobeandmail.com
While the health-care needs of aging adults have rightly been the focus of preparations for our aging society, politicians have largely ignored a need of equal importance – social connection.
One of the key factors associated with longevity is being socially connected, involved and engaged. Older adults’ social networks may change as they age because of mobility issues, declines in health and the death of friends and family – all of which put them at higher risk for loneliness and social isolation. According to the U.S. Health and Retirement Study, more than 40 per cent of older adults are lonely. In Canada, estimates are lower but still alarming, particularly for women. One in four women and one in five men report feeling lonely at least some of the time, according to data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. This will become an even greater issue as a growing number of baby boomers continue to age.
While loneliness may seem an unlikely candidate to top political agendas, news headlines around the world have started to warn of its dangers and call for action. A 2015 report in the peer-reviewed academic journal Perspectives on Psychological Science found that loneliness is as harmful to our health and longevity as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even more dangerous than obesity. Evidence shows that chronic loneliness is linked to a multitude of ailments such as depression, suicidal behaviour and memory impairment. Because of this, loneliness has been described as a public-health crisis that costs us all.
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