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Social isolation "increases death risk for older people"

Posted: April 8, 2013

Being cut off from friends and family and a support network poses a risk.

Interesting article in the BBC reports that social isolation is associated with a higher risk of death in older people regardless of whether they consider themselves lonely, research suggests.

Study leader Prof Andrew Steptoe, director of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at University College London, said: "Social connections can provide emotional support and warmth which is important but they also provide things like advice, making sure people take their medication and provide support in helping them to do things.

"It would suggest that those practical aspects are quite important for older people's survival.

"There's been such an increase in people living alone. In the last 15 years, the number of 55 to 64-year-olds living alone has increased by 50%.

"And it might be that people in those circumstances aren't looking after themselves so well."

Michelle Mitchell, director general at Age UK, said: "This study shows more clearly than before that being lonely and isolated is not only miserable, it is a real health risk, increasing the risk of early death."

She added that cuts to local authority budget cuts may exacerbate the problem of isolation for many older people.

"Across the country day care centers, often the only regular social life that many older people enjoy, are closing, social care support which can enable older people to leave the house is being cut down to the bare minimum and too many older people are hidden behind closed doors struggling to cope."

 

Scott Brightman, Director of Marketing at Shillman House, submitted this post.


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