Loneliness Is as Dangerous as Smoking and Stress
Research shows that feeling lonely is a big risk factor for heart attack, clogged arteries, and stroke. In fact, the dangers of loneliness are on par with obesity, light smoking, and anxiety. A study published in the British medical research journal BMJ found that feeling lonely, or being socially isolated, increases your risk by 29% for heart disease and 32% for stroke.
Additional research links loneliness to cognitive decline and poor immune system function. It has even been linked to an increased chance of diabetes, sleep disorders, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s disease.
How to Protect Yourself from Loneliness in Retirement
The impact of feeling alone can have a huge impact on your declining health.
Here are seven tips for protecting yourself from loneliness:
Talk to Your Doctor
If you are feeling lonely, talk with your doctor. Mental health services are covered by Medicare part B.
Think Carefully About Where You Live
Retirement is often a time when we move to new places. Living in an unfamiliar location can sometimes increase your risk of experiencing loneliness.
In retirement, you might consider living in close proximity to family and lifelong friends. Another option is to live in a senior community with built-in social functions.
Maintain Social Networks
We say it all the time, “keep in touch.” Well, in retirement it is more important than ever to actually do it. Call up a friend for a walk. Have a standing date for coffee every morning with friends. Keep in touch with colleagues you had at work by having lunch every once in a while. No matter what you do, it is important to nurture and participate in your social networks.
Make New Friends
Just as you need to keep in contact with your old friends, you also need to make new ones. It used to be that seniors joined a shuffleboard team, but now there are senior ski clubs, hiking clubs, tennis teams, and more.
You can even start your own group around something that interests you and mix both old and new friends.
In addition to helping your retirement finances, work can be a great way to stay connected to other people.
If you don’t need the income, volunteering can have the same social benefits.
Be Careful About Social Media
Facebook and texting are not a good substitute for physical connection with people.
Exercise and Eat Well
The best medicine for anything that could ail us–including loneliness–is a good diet and regular exercise.