Topic: Mental

Lonely life is your health's enemy

Aug 20, 2007
Researchers found that loneliness becomes more detrimental to person's health with aging.

Louise Hawkley and John Cacioppo from University of Chicago conducted a study to find out the impact of loneliness on health. They suggested that people living in solitude suffer from health problems that should be especially true in respect to older people.

The study involved two groups of individuals: college-age and elderly volunteers to explore all the downsides of lonely life.

Psychologists revealed that in spite of the fact that middle-aged and older people are known to have more stressful events in their life such as divorces, financial problems and work concerns, the lonelier people were more likely to have a long-term stress and recall bad memories of the childhood.

The main difference between lonely people and those who had someone to live with is their vision of life events. Given the same stressful experiences, lonely people are unlikely to address someone for help and as a result may feel more helpless to deal with problems by themselves.

Analysis of the urine samples in lonely people showed a higher level of epinephrine hormone that is responsible for fighting with a variety of stressful factors. The increased level of this chemical indicates that individual experiences a high state of alert.

Specialists also emphasized that loneliness worsen health condition with the age, as stress hormones are also responsible for fighting with inflammatory conditions and infections and additional stressful factor - loneliness contributes to wear-off of the body and makes aging more difficult to deal with.

Another finding regarding isolated way of life is that lonely people have more disturbed sleep than their more content peers. They reported to have more awakenings during sleeping hours. Normally, sleep restores our body and this may be especially important for people who experience more stress in their life. Ironically, more disturbed individuals had more problems with their sleep that affected their daytime state in a bad way. This means that lonely people need more natural restoration but do not have enough sleep to fight stress.

Although researchers say that lonely people who choose their isolated life for spiritual growth or are content with their state do not experience those problems. But for many people, their solitude is poisonous with the age.

The results of the study are published in of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science in August edition.