Living alone causes health risks

Living alone and loneliness can cause serious health problems and possibly death

According to 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data, 31 per cent of Australians over 75 years of age live alone. Two separate studies were published in ScienceDaily on Monday which showed that living alone and loneliness can cause serious health problems and possibly shorten life expectancy.

The first, an international study, published by Archives of Internal Medicine, has shown that living alone is associated with increased risk of death and heart disease. The study followed over 44,000 stable outpatients who were at risk of, or who had, arterial vascular disease. Of these participants over 8000 lived alone. The study showed that those who lived alone had a higher mortality rate, and were more likely to die as a result of cardiovascular problems.

The second study looked at loneliness in people over 60 years of age. Over 1500 participants, with an average age of 71, were asked questions to determine if they felt left out, isolated, or a lack of companionship. Of the participants just under 50 per cent reported some level of loneliness. Over the six-year follow up period participants who reported feeling lonely had a higher risk of death and were twice as likely to experience a functional decline.

This suggests that while loneliness is a problem in itself which we should attempt to combat, it also creates a range of other medical problems which could be putting strain on the health-care system.

More information
Read the full ABS report on living arrangements of older Australians.
Visit ScienceDaily to read more about the study on living alone and heart disease.
Visit Science Daily to read more on the health risks associated with loneliness.

Have your say
Do you think that families or individuals are to blame for loneliness? Find out what Rachel thinks and have your say on the blog post Loneliness can make you sick.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    20th Jun 2012
    "No man is an island". Human beings thrive on social contacts.

    Our western way of life has pulled families apart and made us much less tolerant of each other.

    It's quite hard to make trusted friends once we are grown up, let alone grown old. It makes me sad to think of the number of lonely people who live just doors from each other.

    Modern technology has increased contact between young people, perhaps this could be used for our elders as well. Using social networking sites to create new groups and build new friendship would be time well spent if it improved the health and well being of our older citizens.
    20th Jun 2012
    Greeting again 'itsmylife' & all i am again 'talofa' i live
    alone & i love it...i am educated so i have many interests plus i am
    living alone & i can do want i want & when i want...if i ever want to
    communicate i either ring some of my friends or email...but then i
    was always single-by-choice & i travelled 3 1/2 times around the globe
    the us-american have a name for this 'quirkyalone' & despite being
    anti-american i find a lot of similarities with these people..talofa
    [email protected]
    20th Jun 2012
    Modern technology can help older Australian to get in touch with "humans", family or friends. I've just embarked on learning how to use twitter, skype and facebook and my oh my it's so easy to use and yes, you can get in touch with people all over the world. Just be cautious on what you tweet and who you make friends with on skype.
    20th Jun 2012
    That's great.

    We all forget that technology is designed to be used by anyone so most of it is very easy.
    21st Jun 2012
    Yes, I get lonely sometimes, but it's nice to have my home to myself. I'd love to live next door to a dear friend, in an adjoining flat or unit, so that we could see a lot of each other, without intruding on each other's space.

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