Have you ever heard the phrase “too much of a good thing?” For some people, quarantine offers a much-needed break from the daily grind. But for others, constant isolation may cause long-term damage.
Research suggests that loneliness can have a negative effect on both mental and physical health. Individuals who struggle with social connection are more likely to suffer from chronic stress—a condition that can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Loneliness has also been linked to higher mortality rates. A study by the American Cancer Association states social isolation is a risk factor comparable to obesity and lack of health care.
Effects on the Immune System:
There may also be a connection between loneliness and inflammation. Inflammation is a biological reaction that activates white blood cells to protect the body from harm. It’s characterized by swelling, redness and blood clotting. Studies suggest socially isolated individuals may inadvertently produce an inflammation response. Prolonged inflammation can lead to body aches, fever, fatigue and excessive swelling (edema).
Aging and Isolation:
As a person ages, their immune system naturally declines. Older adults experience hormonal changes and deficiencies that significantly increase their risk for chronic illness. This is particularly harmful for individuals living alone without a regular support system. The lack of encouragement and structure may cause some seniors to neglect their health. This can make them more vulnerable to contracting disease due to poor diet, hygiene and physical activity.
3 Ways to Improve Overall Health:
- Get enough sleep: The body needs adequate rest to recharge and function at its best. Yet, more than one-third of adults fail to get the recommended seven to nine hours. This can lead to various side effects like fatigue, irritability, confusion and reduced coordination.
- Eat a healthy diet and exercise more: Consume a nutrient-dense diet rich in lean protein, whole grains, heart-healthy fats, fruits and vegetables. Also, increase physical activity to at least 30 minutes per day. Moderate exercise can support bone, muscle and joint health, while also reducing the risk of chronic conditions like coronary heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.
- Reconnect with loved ones: Maintaining close relationships can have a positive effect on mental and emotional health. Anyone with an internet connection can utilize video chat with platforms such as Skype and Google Hangout. You can also use a smart phone to FaceTime or set up a group text that can accommodate up to 10 to 25 people (depending on the mobile provider).
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