The study concluded that loneliness is a significant factor in the decline of quality of life in older adults, including risk of depression, cognitive impairment and health problems like coronary artery disease, and may even lead to an earlier death.
Specifically, the study looked at 1,600 adults with an average age of 71. Researchers found that 23 percent of participants who reported being lonely died within six years of the study, while only 14 percent of those who reported having companionship died during the same six year period.
The results, which were published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, remained consistent even after controlling for health and socioeconomic status.
The Connection Between Social Ties And Health
Another study published in the journal PLoS Medicine in 2010 found that social ties can be as important to extending life as losing weight if you are obese and getting active if you are sedentary.
“Our social relationships are important not only to our quality of life, but also our longevity,” said study author Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, to WebMD.
“Throughout human history, we have relied on others for survival such as protection and food, and despite modern advancements that may [help with] certain aspects of survival so that we can live more independently, it appears that our relationships nonetheless still impact odds of survival,” she says.
Research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are downright terrible for our health. In fact, loneliness has been called a bigger health risk than smoking or obesity.
Spending time with loved ones or friends often leads to laughter. Laughing is a powerful antidote to declining health, having been shown to boost immunity, lower blood pressure and stimulate both blood flow and mental activity.
So What Are You Waiting For?
Plan a visit to your mom, and by all means, bring a few good jokes along with you!
Spending time with your parents benefits you, too. The wisdom passed down through generations can be invaluable, and no one quite understands you like mom and dad.
As we know, grandparents can be a major help when it comes to childcare, and research shows that grandparents who babysit are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia. Hanging out with grandma and grandpa is fun for kids too. Win-win!
Looking for something to do next time you parents come by for a visit? Why not ask them about their grandparents and get started on a family tree that maps your history.
Or start a new tradition that will last a lifetime like taking an annual family photo, traveling to a new place on your bucket list, volunteering together or making a favorite family recipe. The possibilities are endless.