Being lonely can have as much effect on the health of an older adult as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and may be more harmful than lack of exercise. UCLA researcher, Steve Cole, recently reported in a published study that “social isolation is the best-established, most robust social or psychological risk factor for disease out there. Nothing can compete.”
The lonely eat fewer meals, vegetables, and calories than those who have social interaction at meals or in their day, and they are more likely to suffer falls and disease.
These isolated seniors suffer from depression, dementia, cognitive decline, and the onset of disabilities. They are the ones most likely to experience early admission into residential or nursing care.*
The social connections that are vital for good health in older adults are lost because of mobility or transportation challenges, living alone, health conditions, lack of financial resources, divorce, or the death of family and friends.