Loneliness

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Loneliness is Bad For the Elderly

By Alvin Tran

There is a 45% increased risk of death in people who are lonely compared to not lonely, according to a UCSF study.

There is a 45% increased risk of death in people who are lonely compared to not lonely, according to a UCSF study. (Photo: Getty Images)

Do you feel left out? Isolated? Or lack companionship? Answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions and you may be at risk for adverse health outcomes, says Carla Perissinotto, MD, an Assistant Clinical Professor at UCSF.

Perissinotto’s latest study, which found a link between loneliness and serious health problems among the elderly, was the main topic of Wednesday’s Forum with Michael Krasny.

The study, published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, followed over 1,600 elderly individuals for six years. These individuals completed surveys that measured whether they felt left out, isolated, or lacked companionship — all of which are components of loneliness.

“We cannot continue to ignore the psychosocial distress that our patients are experiencing. It is, in fact, just as important as traditional medical risk factors.”

“We demonstrated that [loneliness] is also a risk factor for poor health outcomes, including death and multiple measures of functional decline,” said Perissinotto. “[There is a] 45 percent increased risk of death in people who are lonely compared to not lonely.”

Perissinotto says medical professionals also need to put more emphasis on the role of psychosocial distress on health. “We cannot continue to ignore the psychosocial distress that our patients are experiencing,” Perissinotto said. “It is, in fact, just as important as traditional medical risk factors.”

According to Perissinotto, medical schools currently emphasize the role of traditional medical risk factors such high blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity and pay less attention to factors such as social support and loneliness. “There needs to be a slight shift where we don’t ignore the traditional medical risk factors but we also incorporate things like loneliness into the general assessment of our patients,” Perissinotto urged.

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