Humans are social creatures. Even the most introverted person needs to feel a connection to other people. It’s often thought that loneliness is predominantly a psychological issue. But increasingly, researchers are discovering that chronic loneliness can be associated with numerous physical health risks. Additionally, loneliness and depression often go together. If you’re experiencing these mental health challenges, you should know that life doesn’t have to be this way. Reach out for help. At Los Robles Regional Medical Center, our compassionate healthcare providers genuinely care about your quality of life, and we’ll do everything possible to support you.
Type 2 diabetes
Chronic loneliness and type 2 diabetes are linked. People who are chronically lonely and depressed may be more likely to make poor lifestyle choices, which can contribute to an increased risk of diabetes. These poor lifestyle choices may include:
- Choosing sugary, fatty foods
- Getting takeout or convenience food instead of preparing meals
- Avoiding exercise
- Having difficulty staying motivated to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
Additionally, it’s possible that loneliness can make diabetes worse in people who already have this disease. People with depression and chronic loneliness may be less likely to monitor their blood glucose levels carefully and take their medications as directed.
Cognitive decline in the elderly
Chronic loneliness and depression are associated with changes in hormone levels and changes in gene expression. These changes may contribute to cognitive problems , especially among the elderly. Seniors who are lonely may have:
- An increased risk of developing dementia
- An accelerated cognitive decline
- An increased risk of confusion and forgetfulness
More research is needed in this area, but it’s also thought that chronic loneliness may trigger systemic inflammation, which is harmful for brain health.
Increased alcohol consumption
People who are chronically lonely and depressed are more likely to self-medicate with excessive amounts of alcohol. This can lead to short-term risks, such as the potential for accidents, falls and alcohol poisoning. It may also lead to long-term health risks, such as the following:
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
Los Robles Regional Medical Center attracts top physicians and nurses, thanks to our reputation as a patients-first hospital. We provide specialized medical services, while always maintaining our commitment to compassionate, family-centered care. Call our hospital in Thousand Oaks at (877) 888-5746.