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The Health Risks of Being Lonely

Older woman holding cordless phone receiver to her ear

Loneliness and Health

Loneliness can cause health problems, no matter how old one is. And people are more likely to feel lonely as they get older. Retirement shrinks social networks; spouses, siblings, and friends pass away; changes in health limit mobility; and children often live far away. The health risks include physical and mental troubles, from depression to heart disease and even early death.

Social support is clearly an important part to aging well. Does your loved one have any of these risk factors?  

Health and Mobility

How is your family member's overall health? Is walking difficult? Does he or she no longer drive? These can severely restrict social interaction.

Contact with Family and Friends

How often does your loved one get visitors? What about phone calls? Do children and grandchildren live far away? Is the person comfortable using Facebook, email, or Skype to keep in touch with others?

Living Alone

While this doesn’t always mean trouble, it can be a red flag. Does your loved one talk about getting together with friends or family?

Money Issues

Limited income can lead to fewer options for social activities.

Sexual Orientation

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender seniors are much more likely to live alone, have no children, and be cut off from their parents or siblings.

It’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s needs are different. Some folks are happy to spend time alone. At the same time, living with someone is no guarantee against being lonely.


More Care for Caregivers

Sunglasses sitting on a beach chair at the pool
Groceries on kitchen counter
Goldfish in tank swimming over colorful gravel
Feet of a person relaxing in a pool float on a lake
Three open Chinese food cartons with white rice, fried rice, and spicy Szechuan chicken and chopsticks, packets of soy sauce, duck sauce, and spicy mustard on wooden surface
Stop sign
Assistive chair in shower
Older woman holding cordless phone receiver to her ear
Espresso on marble countertop with flower design in foam
Older man on ladder clearing rain gutter
Folder labeled "Medical" in open file cabinet
An elderly person's New York City apartment
Person at cutting board slicing peppers
Woman sitting with crossed legs stretching one arm over her head while other arm rest on the floor
Physician checking a woman's blood pressure
Older couple holding hands
Elderly couple, woman, facing camera, resting her head on man's shoulder. Man is looking down at her.