Loneliness worse for your health than obesity

Feeling extremely lonely on a regular basis is worse than obesity for increasing health risks which lead to premature death, say researchers. The study from the University of Chicago found feeling lonely can increase the risk of premature death in an older person by 14 percent. A 2010 study found extreme loneliness has double the impact of obesity on early death in older people writes  of Expathealth.org

The findings mean extreme loneliness is nearly as bad as disadvantaged socioeconomic status in increasing the risk of premature death. Studies have shown people who are of low socioeconomic status have a 19 percent higher risk of early death than those in a better socioeconomic position.

Loneliness can result in disrupted sleep, raised blood pressure, depression, and increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. John Cacioppo, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, found dramatic differences in the rate of decline of the mental and physical health between socially engaged and lonely older people.

Loneliness risk for expat retirees

Anyone planning on retiring abroad needs to consider the implications of moving away from their family, friends, and social circle.

“Retiring to Florida to live in a warmer climate among strangers isn’t necessarily a good idea if it means you are disconnected from the people who mean the most to you,” said Cacioppo. Population changes make understanding the role of loneliness and health all the more important, he explained.

Although many people are happy in their own company, most people need some degree of social interaction on a daily basis. The research carried out by Cacioppo and his colleagues identified three core dimensions to healthy relationships – intimate connectedness, which comes from having someone in your life you feel affirms who you are; relational connectedness, which comes from having face-to-face contacts that are mutually rewarding; and collective connectedness, which comes from feeling that you’re part of a group.

Older people living alone aren’t necessarily lonely, Cacioppo pointed out. If they remain socially active, and engage with, and enjoy the company of, other people then the adverse effects of extreme loneliness don’t apply.

Older people moving abroad can avoid the consequences of loneliness by staying in touch with friends and family at home, taking part in family traditions including travelling home for important events where possible.

For people moving abroad for the first time there are plenty of expat areas in countries such as Spain, France, and Thailand, where foreigners tend to live. Moving to one of these areas, at least in the beginning, can help with the settling-in process. A common language and shared interests can help support you when you first move abroad and until you find your feet.

Travel Helps People Live Longer

If you’re thinking about taking a week long vacation, why not make it two?

According to a new report on the interconnection between travel and health, there are some serious health benefits to traveling. The report from the Global Commission on Aging, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, and the U.S. Travel Association uncovers a link between traveling and better physical and mental health, and even shows that those who travel live longer reports the healthytravelblog

The survey found that women who traveled infrequently had a higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease compared to those who traveled at least twice a year.

Men also reaped some significant health benefits; those who didn’t take a vacation once a year were shown to have a 20 percent higher risk of death, while 30 percent were more likely to die from heart disease.

And when it comes to happiness, 86 percent of those who traveled were more content with their lives, compared with 75 percent of those who did not travel.

So how exactly might travel improve health?

A similar study conducted in Australia discovered that travel improved three important factors related to happiness: positive emotions, a sense of purpose, and a sense of involvement. The findings showed that the entire process of traveling, from booking a trip to looking at pictures from it afterwards, simply made people happier.

And since experiencing positive emotions lowers the risk for cardiovascular disease, travel is a great way to stay happy and healthy.

So the next time you travel, be sure to take some time and stop stressing over the things that go wrong. But since that can sometimes be difficult to do, here are some tips for a stress-free vacation:

  • Plan ahead: From booking your flight and accommodations well in advance to creating an itinerary for your trip, there are plenty of vacation details that can be sorted out ahead of time. Even if you don’t plan on visiting every landmark, you’ll at least have time built into your schedule to do so.
  • Pack smart: You can’t predict if something will go wrong, but you can at least be prepared. Make sure you pack a travel-sized first aid kit in case of an emergency and an extra set of clothes in your carry on.
  • Get travel insurance: Trip protection will come in handy if your trip is delayed or cancelled for whatever reason, and travel health insurance can come in handy in case of a medical emergency.