By – Ms. Ishita Bagchi, Head-HR & Operations, Vesta Elder Care
Loneliness takes a toll on the mental and physical health of older adults. An older person becomes more fragile – mentally and physically. Therefore, everything affects them more intensely.
Socially isolated older adults who feel lonely have weak thinking abilities, especially when rapidly requiring information processing. It has been observed that older people who feel lonely have a more rapid decline in cognitive abilities.
As observed, loneliness makes cognitive performance worse in multiple ways. It can cause depression, lack of proper rest and sleep, high blood pressure and inflammation, lack of physical activity, etc.
Not many people know that loneliness increases the risk of dementia by around 20%. Besides this, loneliness is also known to create influences similar to other risk factors for dementia-like hypertension, physical inactivity, diabetes, loss of hearing abilities, etc.
Loneliness is also known to trigger Alzheimer’s disease. It is associated with some fundamental brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease, like the building up of beta-amyloid and tau proteins in the brain. Other symptoms of psychological distress, like constant negative thinking, have also been associated with the build-up of beta-amyloid and tau proteins in the brain.
According to some studies, loneliness causes stress among older adults. It is responsible for triggering the biological stress response, which further increases the beta-amyloid and tau proteins in the brain.
Feeling loneliness is more detrimental to health than we can think. Prolonged feelings of loneliness often get converted into loneliness as well. Loneliness triggers diseases because it can contribute to unhealthy behaviors like lack of physical activity, not eating correctly, drinking, smoking, etc. This is true in the case of young adults and older adults.
Loneliness is also a very common social stressor, activating the body’s stress responses. If prolonged, these responses can result in increased inflammation and weak immunity. If these things continue, they can harm health, especially the health of older adults.
Therefore, it becomes necessary to ensure that older adults live in a lively environment and don’t feel aloof. Maintaining healthy and good relationships is the best way to protect the brain from the negativity of loneliness.