Recent research indicates that lonely seniors are much more likely to take opioid analgesics, sedatives, anti-anxiety drugs, and other medications potentially putting them at increased risk for drug dependency, attention problems, falls, accidents, and premature mental decline. Occasional loneliness isn’t dangerous, but when the experience of loneliness persists for many months or years, it can cause physiologic changes, such as a ramped-up stress response, sleep problems, and even heart disease.
Furthermore, a lack of social contact can erode our social skills, making it more difficult over time to connect with others. It can create a vicious cycle.
When we doctors find a lonely patient, we’re wise to do what I call “social prescribing” by directing the lonely person to a faith community or local social opportunities such as community centers, exercise classes, grief groups, or volunteer programs.
Also, asking your lonely friends or family members what might help ease their loneliness can be a good first step to referring them to programs that might benefit them.
The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
© Copyright WLL, INC. 2021. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.