Human beings are social creatures. Our connection to others enables us to survive and thrive. Yet, as we age, many of us are alone more often than when we were younger, leaving us vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness—and related health problems such as cognitive decline, depression, and heart disease. And with COVID-19, these issues are complicated further. Fortunately, there are ways to counteract these negative effects.
Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.
People who find themselves unexpectedly alone due to the death of a spouse or partner, separation from friends or family, retirement, loss of mobility, and lack of transportation are at particular risk.
Conversely, people who engage in meaningful, productive activities with others tend to live longer, boost their mood, and have a sense of purpose. These activities seem to help maintain their well-being and may improve their cognitive function, studies show.
It can be easy to let yourself get isolated so make an effort to talk to someone every day, and using technology like FaceTime and Skype can help even more by allowing you to see your loved ones’ faces. You will be healthier in the long run if you work to maintain your mental health by socializing!