weekly blog--one for the ages
The Holiday Season is supposed to be joyous and celebratory, but for some people it’s filled with stress, anxiety and loneliness. The operative word for today’s blog is loneliness, highlighted by an article in this morning’s New York Times about people dying alone in Japan.
“Kodokushi” is the term the Japanese use for people dying alone and remaining undiscovered for a long period of time. The country’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare reported there were 3,700 “unaccompanied deaths” in 2013, but some researchers estimate that because of significant under-counting, the true figure is closer to 30,000. Almost a quarter of Japanese men and a tenth of Japanese women over age 60 say there is not a single person they could rely on in difficult times.
Over the last decade, physicians and researchers in the US have begun looking deeply into the impact of loneliness and social isolation on health, well being, and mortality, and the data on the subject is overwhelming: a lonely person is significantly more likely to suffer an early death than a non-lonely one. Most of this research is centered on geriatrics, where feelings of loneliness are powerfully predictive of mortality. A few years ago researchers at Brigham Young University found that social isolation increases your risk of death by 30%, and some estimates have it as high as 60%.
The bottom line this holiday season: Try to reach out to a family member or someone in your community who may need a little more help. And if you are the one feeling alone and depressed, here is a guide on how to stay connected and engaged: http://info4seniors.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Expanding-Circles.pdf.