Loneliness may be a predictor of illness, decline or death in seniors

UCSF researchers analyzed data from the National Institute on Aging Health and Retirement Study to determine the effects of loneliness on older adults. The study involved 1,600 participants with a mean age of 71 years old between 2002 and 2008, according to a news report.

Researchers found that many seniors were lonely—even if they did not live alone. While only 18 percent lived alone, 43 percent of the subjects claimed to be lonely.

Loneliness also may include feelings of isolation, low self-worth, social isolation and lack of companionship. Over the six-year study period, researchers found that 22.8 percent of the lonely seniors passed away, while 14.2 percent of socially engaged seniors passed away during the same period.

Findings also note that lonely seniors experienced a decline in function, requiring more assistance with activities of daily living. An Assisted Living Federation of America Update article notes that the study was the largest ever conducted on the effects of loneliness on seniors and one of the first to separate it from general depression.

Click here to access the study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Topics: Clinical