Posted on 25 November 2015
“These findings are very significant and have implications for how we deal with old age. We need to look carefully at the provision of adequate services to match these needs, particularly in the area of mental health support and pain management. Social policies and aging-friendly support structures, such as the provision of public transport and access to health care services are needed to target the ‘oldest-old’ adults as a whole”Both physical and mental wellbeing are closely linked together. Too many people are living with conditions like arthritis which can make social activities very challenging. Poor mobility and health can thus force social isolation on many people. Loneliness can kill Being lonely can also seriously harm your health according to new research. Social isolation is strongly associated with chronic illness and earlier all-cause mortality. Work at the University of Chicago has confirmed fears that isolation can wreak damage on the body .
“In humans, loneliness involves an implicit hyper-vigilance for social threat”The study found that perceived social isolation causes a cascade of cellular changes, leading to direct changes in the immune system. Loneliness was up-regulating inflammatory gene responses and down-regulating anti-viral protection. The sympathetic nervous system was also more active in these people, making their ‘fight or flight’ mechanism more active then normal. We already know the harm stress can cause to the body, and it would seem loneliness does much the same thing. This activation raises levels of a hormone called noradrenaline, which is useful in short bursts, but in a prolonged period triggers production of an immature white blood cell type called an immature monocyte. This type of blood cell shows diminished anti-viral activity and increased inflammatory action. In healing injury inflammation plays a key role, but chronic activation causes widespread harm. The researchers also found lonely Rhesus Macaque monkeys undergo much the same processes when experiencing loneliness. We need to act Aging is an uncomfortable problem for governments to tackle, but we’re currently failing upcoming and existing older generations. These findings highlight the deep human cost of aging on both society and the individual. If retirement is no longer possible, we must focus on improving physical health and providing better support networks for the oldest-old. Investing in anti-aging strategies will not only reduce disease, but provide more people with the freedom and dignity to pursue a life they deserve. Read more at Science Daily and The Telegraph
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