Feeling extreme loneliness can increase an older person's chances of premature death by 14 percent, shows an alarming research.

“The impact of loneliness on premature death is nearly as strong as the impact of disadvantaged socio-economic status - that increases the chances of dying early by 19 percent," said John Cacioppo, Professor of Psychology at Illinois-based University of Chicago.

"Older people living alone are not necessary lonely if they remain socially engaged and enjoy the company of those around them. Some aspects of aging, such as blindness and loss of hearing, however, place people at a special risk for becoming isolated and lonely," added Cacioppo.

The researchers looked at dramatic differences in the rate of decline in physical and mental health as people age.

Cacioppo and colleagues examined the role of satisfying relationships on older people to develop their resilience, the ability to bounce back after adversity and grow from stresses in life.

Feeling isolated 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, they observed.

"Older people can avoid the consequences of loneliness by staying in touch with former co-workers, taking part in family traditions and sharing good times with family and friends," advised Cacioppo. Although some people are happy to be alone, most people thrive from social situations in which they provide mutual support and develop strong rapport, said the study.


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