Living alone could send you to an early graveS

Two studies published this week have drawn a link between either living alone or feeling lonely — and an increased risk of death. Your lone wolf habits could be driving you to an early end.

Top image: Pond5.com/Stephane106

The first simply looked at people living alone, and their chances of cardiovascular disease or death. What the researchers found was that at certain ages, being on your lonesome was definitely not good for your health. For those aged 45-65, the risk of death climbed from 5.7% to 7.7%; and from the ages of 66-80, it was 13.2% rather than 12.3%. Curiously, for those even older than 80, the situation reversed — people who lived on their own had a 24.6% chance of death, rather than 28.4%.

The second study looked at something a bit less concrete — but just as real — as living alone: feelings of loneliness. Amongst the elderly, loneliness correlated to earlier mortality, and functional decline. Across 1600 patients with an average age of 71, some 43% reported feeling lonely. Over the next six years, this lonely cohort saw a higher mortailty rate (22.8% over 14.2%); decline in activities of daily living (24.8% vs. 12.5%); dificulties with upper extremity tasks (41.5% vs 28.3%); and trouble climbing stairs (40.8% vs 27.9%)

There's room for a large amount of interpretation amongst research like this. People who live alone or feel lonely are more likely to delay care, live a less healthy lifestyle, or feel like it's not worth the effort of fighting certain battles. They may also not have someone around to find them if they've fallen down, or notice worrying symptoms.