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Loneliness 'can shorten your life and make every day activities a struggle'
Isolated participants were twice as likely to experience to struggle with daily activities

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UPDATED:

20:09 GMT, 18 June 2012

Loneliness: Found to be a good indicator of illness and death

Loneliness: Found to be a good indicator of illness and death

Loneliness can shorten your life, a new study has shown.

For the over 60s feeling lonely is a
common source of distress and can lead to an impaired quality of life. Now researchers from the University of California have found that it could increase the
risk of death by almost 10 per cent.

The authors believe their findings could important public health implications.

The team, led by Dr Carla
Perissinotto, said: 'Loneliness is a common source of suffering in older
persons. We demonstrated that it is also a risk factor for poor health
outcomes including death and multiple measures of functional decline.

'Assessment of loneliness is not routine in clinical practice and it may
be viewed as beyond the scope of medical practice. However, loneliness
may be as an important of a predictor of adverse health outcomes as many
traditional medical risk factors.

'Our results suggest that questioning
older persons about loneliness may be a useful way of identifying
elderly persons at risk of disability and poor health outcomes.'

The team
examined the relationship between loneliness and risk of functional
decline and death in older individuals in a study of 1,604 participants
in the Health and Retirement Study.

The participants, with an average age
of 71, were asked if they felt left out, isolated or a lack of
companionship. Of the participants, 43.2 percent reported feeling
lonely, which was defined as reporting one of the loneliness items at
least some of the time, they found.

Loneliness was associated with an
increased risk of death over the six-year follow-up period, 22.8 percent compared to 14.2 percent.

They also found isolated participants were twice as likely to experience a decline in daily activities with 24.8 per cent adversely affected compared to 12.5per cent of peers. Meanwhile 40.8 per cent of lonely people struggled with the stairs compared to 27.9 per cent of others.

The authors of
the study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a JAMA
Network publication. concluded: 'Loneliness is a negative feeling that
would be worth addressing even if the condition had no health
implications.

'Nevertheless, with regard to health implications,
scientists examining social support should build on studies such as
those published in this issue and be challenged to investigate
mechanisms as well as practical interventions that can be used to
address the social factors that undermine health.'

A separate US study in the same journal found a link between living alone and an increased risk of death from heart disease among people at risk of blood clots.

Scientists examined data on 44,573 middle-aged participants, 8,594 of whom lived alone.

Living alone was associated with three per cent greater chance of dying over a period of four years. It also increased the risk of death from heart disease from around 7 per cent to 8.6 per cent.


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