Social contact and regular exercise are key to aging well and living a longer life, according to newly presented research. In fact, feeling extremely lonely can increase an older person’s chances of premature death by 14 percent, an impact nearly as strong as that of a disadvantaged socioeconomic status, according to John Cacioppo, psychology professor at the University of Chicago.
He noted that a meta-analysis of several studies published in 2010 showed that social isolation had twice the impact on the risk of death as obesity.
“Retiring to Florida to live in a warmer climate among strangers is not necessarily a good thing if it means you are disconnected from people who mean the most for you,” Cacioppo said.
Often, loneliness is accompanied by a sedentary lifestyle, which can significantly weaken one’s health.
Simple exercise such as walking regularly at a good pace can’t just cut the risk of cardiovascular and Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent—it can also clearly slow down the normal aging process of an older person’s brain, Kirk Erickson of the University of Pittsburgh told AFP.