Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for. Dag Hammarskjold
The mental and physical burden of loneliness can be extreme, especially for older adults. Usually defined as the perception of being isolated from signficant others, whether friends or family, people feel lonely because of the gap between the kind of social relationships they would like to have and the ones they see themselves as having. Since nobody's life is ever truly perfect, we all feel lonely from time to time though the feeling is usually manageable and temporary.
Still, there are numerous studies showing the link between loneliness and the development of health problems, as well having a shorter lifespan. Along with depression and other psychological problems, chronic loneliness can also lead to sleep problems, hypertension, an impaired immune system, and the breakdown of the body's endocrine system.
The problems associated with loneliness often grow worse with time due to the natural health problems that come with age. As a result, loneliness is frequently a chronic problem in older adults due to increasing health problems which can make it harder for them to stay socially active. Age-related medical issues can also lead to greater psychological distress, including depression, and this can lead to people feeling even lonelier. Medical problems such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, or cancer, can make many older adults feel more disabled and helpless.
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.