Can loneliness kill you?

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A recent study shows extreme loneliness can increase chances of premature death in older adults by fourteen percent, according to research by John Cacioppo, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.

Cacioppo and his team of researchers examined dramatic differences in the rate of decline in physical and mental health as people get older. As one of the nation's leading experts on loneliness, he pointed out that feeling isolated from others can disrupt sleep, elevate blood pressure, increase morning rises in the stress hormone cortisol, alter gene expression in immune cells, increase depression, and lower overall subjective well-being. “People have to think about how to protect themselves from depression, low subjective well-being, and early mortality”, Cacioppo was quoted as saying. “Retiring to Florida to live in a warmer climate amongst strangers isn't necessarily a good idea if it means you are disconnected from the people who mean the most to you.”

He advised that older people can avoid the consequences of loneliness by remaining socially engaged and staying in touch with people they care about and who care about them, for example former co-workers, family, and friends.

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