According to research, humans have a fundamental need for human connection, inclusion in groups, and close friendships. In fact, some research indicates that human connection is a lot like food- essential for survival. We are not wired for isolation even as we age. Such isolation can result in senior loneliness.
When our social needs are met, we function much better than when they are not being met. It’s much easier to stay motivated and meet the various challenges in life. Humans truly are social creatures.
If you or a loved one is in need of social contact and in-home care in the Columbia, SC area, contact Caring Healthcare. For more than 24 years, we have provided in-home care for elderly individuals, special needs children, and more. Our caregivers are kind and compassionate and can help with a variety of care needs- including providing that human connection that we all desire.
How Does Social Isolation Impact Seniors?
There is a growing body of evidence that indicates social isolation has a detrimental impact on the brain and the body. This shows that when our social needs are not being met, we will begin to fall apart emotionally, mentally, and physically. Senior loneliness is no exception.
Stress levels increase
Some of these effects are subtle, exposing a variety of body systems to excessive levels of cortisol, or stress hormones. However, over time, when social needs are ignored, it has a significant impact on our arteries, which causes high blood pressure and can even have an effect on our ability to learn and remember things.
When we lack close friends and social contact in general, we begin to experience emotional discomfort/distress. This is known as loneliness. It starts with an awareness that there is a deficiency in relationships and connections. This awareness then begins to play an emotional soundtrack through our brains, making us sad. This causes us to feel sad and may create a feeling of general emptiness. We feel isolated, deprived, and separated from others. We long for some type of human connection.
Temporary Loneliness vs. Chronic Loneliness
It is important to note that everyone feels lonely at some point in their lives- especially after splitting with a friend/lover, moving to a new place, being excluded from a social gathering, etc. However, this is not the same thing as chronic loneliness. This is one of the most obvious indicators of maladjustment.
In children, chronic loneliness can lead to a variety of problems. In fact, this is the most common reason that kids drop out of school. Chronic loneliness can create a path for them to become outcast, develop delinquency and other antisocial behaviors.
In adults, chronic loneliness can lead to depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. In addition, recent research indicates that it can lead to a variety of medical problems which may take years to appear.
What Does Research Show?
According to a psychologist from the University of Chicago, senior loneliness can have some surprising impacts on health, including:
- Medical providers offer better/more complete medical care for patients who have supportive families and are not isolated
- Loneliness increases the risk of suicide across all age brackets
- Individuals who are lonely have a much higher level of perceived stress than those who have social connections, even when relaxing
- Social interactions of lonely individuals are not as positive as those who are not lonely and the relationships they do have don’t help shield them from stress as normal relationships do
- Loneliness increases stress hormones and elevates blood pressure. It prevents the circulatory system from regulating, which makes the heart work harder and blood vessels are damaged due to turbulence in blood flow.
- Loneliness can have a detrimental impact on sleep quality, preventing it from being restorative.
Therefore, loneliness seems to create an array of pathophysiological processes that may take years to manifest. Lonely individuals have much higher levels of wear and tear than those who have human connection.
What it all comes down to is this: humans are social creatures. We are built for human connection. If we don’t get enough, there are serious, life-threatening consequences. If you or a loved one is feeling socially isolated and needs in-home care in or near Columbia, SC, contact Caring Healthcare. We have the experience and expertise to help with a variety of needs.