Movie star Greta Garbo was famous for saying, “I want to be let alone,” but new research suggests that’s a rotten philosophy to follow if you want to live longer.
The researchers then tracked the respondents’ health over the next seven years.
While researchers found that social isolation and loneliness each carried a higher risk of early death, there was an important difference: Having no social contacts increased the risk of dying regardless of a person’s health and other factors, while loneliness increased the risk of dying only among those with underlying mental or physical health problems.
As explained: “The researchers suspect that older people who have few social ties may not be getting the care they need.
No one is urging them to eat right or take their medicine, and in a crisis no one is there to help.” Some American researchers remain a bit skeptical about the British results, saying feelings of loneliness can be just as harmful to an older person’s health.
Loneliness and isolation “should get lots of attention because they may be as important, as joint factors, as smoking,” Richard Suzman of the National Institute on Aging, told the Times. I think those are all important ways that we need to stay connected with our relationships.
University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo had a more immediate solution: “Have lunch with somebody,” he told NPR.
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A similar study last year of older Americans by University of Chicago researchers found that loneliness, regardless of health factors, was linked with increased death over a six-year period.
Either way, the research reflects the fact that both British and U. populations have become more solitary, with more than a quarter of households in both countries composed of people living by themselves, reported the Los Angeles Times.