Loneliness in old age is bad for your health

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Men and women alike lonely

Men and women are equally lonely in old age. At the German Congress for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, which will take place in Heidelberg from March 6 to 9, 2013, scientists presented the latest research results and facts on loneliness between men and women of advanced age. The experts also want to discuss the risk factors of loneliness.

Men and women alike lonely
Many older people in Germany are lonely. This usually happens when the life partner has already died or the family connection is not given. Depending on the study, 5 to 20 percent of pensioners in Germany feel "lonely and suffer from pronounced feelings of loneliness." According to Professor Dr. med. Karl-Heinz Ladwig from the Clinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy at the Klinikum rechts der Isar in Munich “Men and women in old age are affected by loneliness in about the same way.” According to the doctor, “this is actually astonishing, since women are more risk factors for women Show loneliness than men ”. On average, women are widowed more often, suffer more from physical restrictions that make social life more difficult, or suffer more often from depression or anxiety disorders. Ladwig believes that "women apparently have compensating mechanisms that balance these factors."

The position of the professor is confirmed by a current study with over 1000 participants over 65 years of age. "The quality of the social network plays a crucial role," says Ladwig. Women usually maintain close friendships and also have closer contact with the neighborhood. Men are usually in contact with former work colleagues. In many cases, however, these are not close friends who are trusted. Another result also amazed the experts. According to the study, it is irrelevant whether seniors live alone or with a partner. "If the seniors have an intact network of social contacts, they don't find it a burden to live alone," he says. The entire findings will be presented at the German Congress for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy.

Negative health effects
"A pronounced feeling of loneliness can have a negative impact on the physical and mental health of those affected," reports Dr. Imad Maatouk, one of the Heidelberg conference leaders. For example, sufferers often suffer from high blood pressure. Also prescriptions of psychotropic drugs can be observed more often when older people feel very lonely. This suggests a higher risk of depression. This is the result of an evaluation by Heidelberg physician Dr. Friederike Böhlen conducted in the context of the ESTHER cohort study. "It was already known that taking psychiatric drugs is common in old age," reports Böhlen, who will also present her results at the congress. What is new is that loneliness leads to an increased rate of psychotropic drugs in addition to the symptoms of depression. About 19 percent of people between the ages of 57 and 84 take psychologically active medication, the study found.

So it is important to consider loneliness as a serious issue. If older people have the opportunity to cultivate hobbies and friendships, this also has a positive effect on health. (sb)

Image: Daniel Stricker / pixelio.de

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Video: Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System

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