Yes, loneliness CAN kill you.
How are you? Why don’t you ever call anymore? I never see you. You’re always busy at that job of yours.
Chances are good you’ve heard these things (and more, probably, if you have a guilt-ladling parent) from your mother whenever she calls you and bugs you during the week. Usually, you answer the questions, promise to stop by when you’re not too busy (or tired), and then you go about your life, eventually forgetting to call her back.
But shame on you! You really should call your parents. After all, they gave you the best years of their lives, didn’t they? There’s also another perfectly good reason that your mom is always insisting on seeing you and talking to you on the phone.
It might come as a surprise, but your mom might actually be lonely. She’s had children in her house for decades, and suddenly, you’re not around anymore. Maybe your parents are divorced or one has passed, but if they live alone, it’s not out of the question that they might be lonely.
But that loneliness could be doing something even worse to your aging parent.
Now that we’ve started tugging the sticky guilt bandage off of the giant guilt wound, let’s go ahead and rip it the rest of the way off.
Loneliness, according to a recent study, is actually a huge reason that old people begin to decline, and yes, even die. And, even more unfortunately for them, loneliness is actually a huge problem with elderly people.
As of 2010, nearly 28 percent of people above the age of 65 lived alone. That’s around 11 million old people who were all likely suffering from being lonely, which is both a mind-blowing and heart-crushing statistic.
Apart from the fact that most older parents love spending time with their kids and encourage them to hang out with them whenever possible, the study suggests that you might actually help keep Mom alive for a little longer if you take some time out of your busy schedule to realize that she’s a person who needs attention, too.
The study, which consisted of 1,600 adults whose average age was 71, found that the older folks in the group who were lonely routinely and consistently had higher rates of mortality than those who weren’t, which is pretty much topping the charts for depressing things you can handle in one sitting without sobbing your eyes out.
The researchers determined that a shocking 23 percent of those who lacked for friendship or company died within six years, whereas only 14 percent of those with companionship died during the same period.
And now that you’re sobbing, remember that there’s a silver lining. You could go and spend time with your elderly parent or call them on the phone and remind them that you’re thinking about them. If you don't have an elderly parent or grandparent who could use your love, then feel free to donate your time to nursing homes where people could use that sort of attention and love.
Spending time with older people is important — far more than you ever realized, even. Not only are you learning skills and hearing amazing stories, but you can benefit from their love and experience, and, by being there, you can even help them live longer, more fulfilled lives.
So what are you waiting for? Go call your mother!