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  1. #1
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    Question Does Being Lonely Make You Ill?

    Loneliness is thought to be rising around the world and how often you see friends and family could have a significant effect on health.

    Doctors have known for some time that loneliness is bad for the mind. It leads to mental health problems like depression, stress, anxiety, and a lack of confidence.

    But there's growing evidence that social isolation is connected with an increased risk of physical ill health as well.

    There are suggestions it can make some diseases both more likely to occur and more likely to be fatal.

    In 2006, a study of 2,800 women who had breast cancer showed those who saw few friends or family were as much as five times more likely to die of their disease than women with many social contacts.

    Researchers are trying to figure out what loneliness does to the body which can lead to illness and death.

    Psychologists at University of Chicago and Ohio State University have shown that people who are socially isolated develop changes in their immune system, which leads to a condition called chronic inflammation.

    Short term inflammation is necessary for us to heal after a cut or an infection, but if the inflammation persists in the long-term it can contribute towards cardiovascular disease and cancer.

    At the University of Chicago, scientists found that lonely people find everyday activities more stressful than those who are not socially isolated.

    They measured levels of cortisol, a hormone that's produced when we are stressed, in a wide range of healthy people in the morning and evening.

    Lonely people released more cortisol. The scientists suggest that too much of the hormone causes inflammation and disease.

    The latest work from Ohio State University looked at levels of inflammation in response to stress in lonely people. Dr Lisa Jaremka compared women who have survived breast cancer with healthy volunteers.

    She gave the participants a well-known stress test, called the Trier Social Stress Test, in which they had to give an impromptu speech explaining why they were the best candidate for a job, in front of a stony-faced panel.

    They then had to perform a mental arithmetic task before the same panel.

    Loneliness tests and blood samples showed that in both groups, the lonelier people had higher levels of inflammation.

    Dr Jaremka said: "If you're lonely you can have raised inflammation regardless of having a chronic medical condition.

    "It was a struggle for a long time for physicians to recognise the importance of loneliness in health. We now know how important it is to understand patients' social worlds."

    The number of people who are likely to be lonely is rising all over the world. Many of these are elderly, left by themselves after their partners have died or their families have moved away.

    Half of over 75 year olds in the UK live alone, and one in 10 suffer intense loneliness.

    Dr Jaremka said: "Being lonely means not feeling connected or cared for, it's not about being physically alone.

    "We need to find ways to help lonely people. Unfortunately we can't tell anyone to go out and find someone to love you. We need to create support networks."

    Source:-
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21517864


  2. #2
    Respected Member Michael Parnham's Avatar
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    I think in my case I've never had a lot of friends only one or three, also never been really close to my family. With regards to my family I always felt the odd one out because at weekends they used to all go to a pub at the weekend and I don't drink and have no desire to go in pubs or bars. My social life consists of inviting a couple for a meal at home on the odd occasion and having good conversation by putting the world to right etc: Enjoy walking with a friend whilst having a good old chat. Doing things together with wife is now the best part of living for me, we talk a lot and laugh a lot and love a lot, don't need family any more since they disowned me, but it would be nice just to find a friend or a couple we could see from time to time, this would get rid of my slight feeling of lonliness!


  3. #3
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    I've always been happy in my own company, but sociable when the need arises.

    I think social networking sites now provide a substitute for face to face socialising, and are perhaps good for those who are naturally shy or otherwise isolated.

    The downside is that people are probably not getting enough exercise !

    Just as likely to affect their general health I'd have thought.


  4. #4
    Respected Member Iani's Avatar
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    MAYBE it's one of those studies which has found a conclusion, which might be more circumstantial. The link between loneliness and health.

    For example, there have been these studies where people have jumped to the conclusion that drinking small amounts of fresh coffee has health benefits - because people who do so have less stress or similar.
    HOWEVER it is also possible that people who drink this stuff, do so as it's part of their lifestyle - stopping off at an expensive coffee shop for that and a roll maybe - and they could have low stress anyway.
    To put it in an extreme and rather silly way - say a large gym started giving away purple hats. Everyone who went to this gym then wore a purple hat - imagine then if some group of experts were to issue a claim that wearing a purple hat made you less likely to be in bad physical health, because look at all these people who wear purple hats, they're in good shape and some look like they've even been working out

    So regarding the link to loneliness, well I don't know about anyone else, but I know that when I am on my own, I am less likely to look after myself, I skip meals, I skip sleep, I just cut corners all over the place. I can't be the only one!


  5. #5
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    Good points !


  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iani View Post
    .....So regarding the link to loneliness, well I don't know about anyone else, but I know that when I am on my own, I am less likely to look after myself, I skip meals, I skip sleep, I just cut corners all over the place. I can't be the only one!
    I think many folks on their own are the same. But is that down to loneliness ? Hmmm maybe not entirely. It could be something just as simple as not being bothered or no reason to.

    Loneliness appears to be a increasing fact of modern life, especially for older folks and those who have difficulties socialising and finding good friends.
    How many people do not really know their neighbours for example?


  7. #7
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    Joyce Carol Vincent: How could this young woman lie dead and undiscovered for almost three years?

    I watched this documentary recently.

    It haunted me.

    If you're interested to read it you'll truly find it hard to believe that a person could just disappear off the radar without a single person in the whole world noticing.


    On 25 January 2006, officials from a north London housing association repossessing a bedsit in Wood Green owing to rent arrears made a grim discovery. Lying on the sofa was the skeleton of a 38-year-old woman who had been dead for almost three years. In a corner of the room the television set was still on, tuned to BBC1, and a small pile of unopened Christmas presents lay on the floor. Washing up was heaped in the kitchen sink and a mountain of post lay behind the front door. Food in the refrigerator was marked with 2003 expiry dates. The dead woman's body was so badly decomposed it could only be identified by comparing dental records with an old holiday photograph of her smiling. Her name was revealed to be Joyce Carol Vincent.

    I first heard about Joyce when I picked up a discarded copy of the Sun on a London underground train. The paper reported the gothic circumstances of her death – "Woman dead in flat for three years: skeleton of Joyce found on sofa with telly still on" – but revealed almost nothing about her life. There was not even a photograph of her.

    The image of the television flickering over her decomposing body haunted me as I got off the train on to the crowded platform. In a city such as London, home to 8 million people, how could someone's absence go unnoticed for so long? Who was Joyce Vincent? What was she like? How could she have been forgotten?

    News of Joyce's death quickly made it into the global media, which registered shock at the lack of community spirit in the UK. The story ran on in the British press, but still no photograph of Joyce appeared and little personal information.

    Soon Joyce dropped out of the news. I watched as people discussed her in internet chatrooms, wondering if she was an urban myth, or talking about her as though she never mattered, calling her a couch potato, and posting comments such as: "What's really sad is no one noticed she was missing – must have been one miserable bitch." And then even that kind of commentary vanished.

    But I couldn't let go. I didn't want her to be forgotten. I decided I must make a film about her.

    At this point all that had been revealed in the press was that Joyce Vincent was 38 when she died, had been born in west London to parents who were from the Caribbean, and that some of her family had attended her inquest. Some reports suggested Joyce was, or had been, engaged to be married, and that before living in the bedsit she had been in a refuge for victims of domestic violence. But she didn't fit the typical profile of someone who might die and be forgotten: she wasn't old without family; she wasn't a loner, or an overdosed drug addict; nor was she an isolated heavy drinker. Who she was and the circumstances of her death were a mystery.

    Please read more here


  8. #8
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    A fascinating read Peter (I read it all)...and so very sad.


  9. #9
    Respected Member Ako Si Jamie's Avatar
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    I prefer my own company but I don't mind socialising. Got several friends who I spend several hours a week with and that's enough for me.


  10. #10
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    I've actually spent a large amount of my life alone.
    If i'm honest I would have to admit to feeling lonely quite a few times.

    Despite my life being very busy and involving myself in many teams and much world travel I still did feel lonely and isolated from time-to-time. Especially when I was required to base myself in foreign parts for say 6-9 months at a time. Have to admit under those conditions I didn't always take sufficient good care of myself. Not that I ever got really ill, just sometimes I didn't eat well or I missed out a meal, sometimes slept too much sometimes not enough. Sometimes drank too much beer and sometimes did pointless things to save the extra money.

    It's not just the elderly that can suffer loneliness and other associated impacts.

    I have a few neighbours that I regularly check on and spend a little time to be sure they're OK, but by and large even in our village there are many people who don't know their neighbours.

    Interesting subject, and the way our 21st century life is headed with TV/Radio/Internet/Phones etc etc the more people can live distanced lives.


  11. #11
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    We are indeed aware that loneliness - and bereavement - may lead to depression, anxiety, lack of confidence and stress.


    Doctors do also recognise “ confounding variables / factors “ in statistics, whereby some factor appears to correlate or cause another – when in reality the relationship is false. This is why it’s so hard to prove, for example, that a specific item in the diet causes ( or prevents ) cancer.


    The study of breast cancer quoted, where patients who “ saw few friends or family were … five times more likely to die of their disease than women with many social contacts “ is not the best example to claim a link between loneliness and health.

    A diagnosis of cancer is itself stressful. Survival rates for breast cancer have been improving for 30 years in the UK . By far the most important factors allowing successful treatment are size ( small is best, especially picked up during screening ) ; grade on microscopy ( low grade = low aggression ) ; and stage ( no spread to lymph nodes or beyond ). Survival is half as good overall in the Philippines primarily because of late diagnosis, not loneliness.



    Stress ( feeling under pressure, and with raised levels of hormones such as cortisol ) – whether caused by loneliness, work or other factors - is ONE risk contributing to high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. But more significant risk factors include smoking, physical inactivity, bad diet and obesity.



    The contribution of loneliness to illnesses, compared to other risk factors, may be debatable. However, it does seem that there are more lonely and elderly people in the UK than the Philippines. They would be happier and more positive if relatives and friends cared more for them rather than abandoning them to a care home. It doesn’t take scientific studies to confirm common sense.


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