Loneliness and social isolation: how do they impact the health of the elderly? – 04/14/2022

Study published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Societya medical journal of the American Geriatrics Association, points out that elderly people in the United States who experience social isolation have higher levels of two inflammation markers (interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein/CRP) in their blood, which can be harmful over the long term. of time.

The study evaluated data from 4,648 Medicare beneficiaries (a health insurance system managed by the US government), individuals aged 65 and over.

According to the lead author, Thomas KM Cudjoe, from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the findings demonstrate an association between social isolation and biological processes, being an important work in unraveling the mechanisms by which this situation increases the levels of morbidity and mortality.

A highlight, according to Rubens de Fraga Júnior, a medical specialist at the Brazilian Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology, is the loneliness caused by isolation which, although it is a negative subjective feeling, mainly affects the elderly without a social support system, or a wider social network.

“This lack of support, which can be manifested by the absence of a partner, for example, leads to emotional loneliness, already described in previous studies, which demonstrated the interaction between a more reclusive life and the increase of inflammatory markers such as interleukin -6 and PCR”, explains the doctor, who is also a professor of gerontology at Faculdade Evangélica Mackenzie do Paraná.

Such markers, when increased, are linked to chronic inflammation in the body. “These are markers with thrombogenic and atherogenic potential [que tendem a produzir trombos e placas de gordura (ateroma)], capable of triggering cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, increasing morbidity and mortality rates. My interpretation, as a gerontologist, is that the state of loneliness marked by these few or infrequent social contacts leads to decreased physical activity, less sense of well-being, altered perception of quality of life and poorer physical health. The repercussion of all this on the markers exists, but we need more studies to better establish the details of this relationship”, evaluates the specialist.

How to improve?

It is possible to work on different interventions for the elderly in this situation, in order to restore social capacities, improve skills and increase social recreation, according to Fraga.

“These are simple measures, such as making the elderly participate in walking groups in the park or go to the gym, for example. Digital contact, which for many has become a viable means, is more problematic in the elderly, especially among those who are not digitalized. , in addition to not solving the issue of physical mobility”, he suggests.

The specialist also recalls that there is no single solution to the problem, but some points may be key. “The promotion of resilience, or the ability to ‘jump up’ in the face of new and unexpected situations, as well as maintaining high-quality social relationships, are vital in this process”, he concludes.

Add Comment