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Nursing Homes: Correlation Found Between Loneliness and Early Death

A pair of new studies released in June 2012 suggests that loneliness may cause adverse health effects in some elderly individuals. The studies point to health outcomes such as early death, and increased risk of heart problems. Results suggest that perhaps loneliness should be a new focus in comprehensive nursing home care. Our nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys are interested to learn of a new proxy that could be used to improve the quality of living in care facilities.

According to researchers from the University of California at San Francisco, loneliness is a social factor that is not currently monitored in an effective manner. In the past, researchers and people in the care industry thought loneliness might be covered by measures of isolation or depression, but new results actually reveal just the opposite. Apparently, people who reported loneliness in the study were usually not isolated or depressed.

In fact, many people who reported loneliness lived with another person. Researchers posit that this correlation may be due to a psychological lack of satisfaction with relationships. Put simply, if elders are dissatisfied with their relationships they may shut down and become lonely rather than attempting to improve the situation.

This suggestion from researchers makes a good deal of sense. If you spend a lifetime establishing relationship ties, you would obviously be disappointed if those relationships never blossomed to the place you envisioned them going.

In order to address the problem of loneliness, caretakers would need to start developing new methods for loneliness detection. The University of California’s study used a basic survey method that assessed senior’s health on three proxies: feeling lonely, feeling left out, or feeling a lack of companionship. Survey participants were counted as lonely if they indicated feeling any one of the three chosen symptoms.

Researchers then drew a correlation between these symptoms and decreased functional capacity in other aspects of life. The main byproducts of loneliness according to the study appear to be decreased mobility and reduced dexterity. Participants who reported loneliness were less capable of fine motor skills utilizing their upper body. They also had more difficulty with routine tasks such as getting dressed and grooming themselves.

In terms of mobility, elders who were lonely demonstrated a reduced capacity to climb stairs and even to walk or jog. A reduction in any of these realms of life makes day-to-day function much more difficult. As a result, seniors with loneliness often experience a shorter lifespan and quicker aging symptoms.

A second study indicated that individuals feeling the burden of loneliness were also much more prone to death caused by cardiovascular complications than others of similar health. This study actually displayed that from the age of 45 and onwards, individuals feeling lonely could be subject to a premature death.

Although the statistics sound convincing, researchers from Yale critiqued the studies for a failure to pinpoint why loneliness might be correlated with earlier deaths. The Yale scientists urged future researchers to pay attention to the particularized ties between loneliness and death rather than compounding more generalized findings about loneliness.

Despite the fact that the research does not yet lead to a cure or even significant intervention, it is a starting point for researchers and caretakers to move forward. If you or a loved one suffers from an injury in a nursing facility, whether related to loneliness or not, you should contact an experienced nursing home lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can help you to get compensation for past improper care and they can possibly help you to secure better care for the future.