Researchers from the University of California-San Francisco followed 1,600 older adults—with an average age of 71—and kept track of their loneliness, functional decline, and their mortality over the course of the six-year study. They just released their results in a new study, and as soon as you finish reading this article, you’re going to want to call your parents—and your aunties, grandparents, and older friends, too. Turns out that a simple phone call isn’t just an opportunity to find out about their day or catch up on the latest gossip, but may actually help them live longer.
The researchers found that 23 percent of adults who suffered from loneliness passed away over the course of the six-year timespan. By contrast, only 14 percent of adults who felt that they had friends, family, and companions who cared about them and engaged them, passed away during the six-year study.
The researchers concluded that the culprit was loneliness, which can have a huge impact on the lives, health, and emotional wellbeing of people, especially in the elderly. Not only can loneliness make people feel isolated and sad, but it can lead to real medical issues like, depression, cognitive decline, and cardiovascular disease, which can lead to premature death.
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If you think that your elderly next door neighbor, the friendly woman at church, or even your own parents couldn’t possibly feel lonely, keep in mind that the researchers discovered that 43 percent of adults over 60 feel isolated. That’s a lot of loneliness in the world. Luckily, that can be easily cured with a phone call, a visit, or a friendly smile at the grocery store. Not only can you help your parents live longer with a phone call, but those benefits go both ways and you may find your emotional well-being improves, too.