How Loneliness in Older Adults Affects Mental Health

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486858785While it’s likely that at some point in our lives, everyone experiences some level of loneliness, a recent study suggests that those adults 60-years-old and over who frequently feel lonely may be at a greater risk for functional decline and even mortality. It’s estimated that about 40 percent of the population over 60 reports feelings of loneliness at least sometimes in their lives. This research points to the fact that loneliness should be considered more closely when assessing the overall health of older adults.

The Impact of Loneliness on Quality of Life

The results of this study show that loneliness can negatively impact the quality of life in older adults, especially when also paired with physical illness or disability. An important distinction was made between feelings of loneliness and a person’s relationship status or living situation. A person who lives alone may not necessary be lonely, whereas a person who lives with a spouse and children could still be lonely.

Because this has been one of the first studies to isolate the psychosocial distress caused by loneliness as in independent risk factor for negative health outcomes and mortality, more research needs to be done in this area. However, the findings of the study show much evidence that loneliness in itself can negatively affect both mental and physical health.

Outpatient Treatment Options

While this new evidence suggests that the effects of loneliness may be quite distinct from those of depression or other mental illness, there are many outpatient programs in place that could help to relieve feelings of loneliness. Although not all loneliness is caused by social isolation, attending a group therapy session, for example, may offer feelings of community and camaraderie among others who share similar experiences.