Americans are lonelier than ever — and that’s bad for your health

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“happy Thanksgiving.

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“merry christmas.

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“Happy New Year.

We are prepared to think that the holidays, which are about to begin, are a time of joy with family and friends. TV shows, commercials, festival music and everything else.

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But this is not necessarily true in a country where there are more people alone than ever before. I’m not just talking about living alone, which now defines 28% of all American households, according to the Census Bureau, up from 13% half a century ago. I am talking about the actual time spent alone, when we are isolated and not interacting with others.

It may surprise you to learn that since our mid-30s, we spend more time alone with friends, family, or coworkers than we do. It accelerates from there, and by the time we reach 60, the time spent with everyone other than our significant others drops sharply, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In our 70s, the likelihood of losing our partner increases, and after that our alone time and loneliness increases. By age 80, seniors can expect to spend more than eight hours alone per day—far more than combined with a partner, children, other family members, and friends.

US Bureau of Labor Statistics

It is harmful to our health. Humans are physically social animals; We can live longer, healthier and happier lives when we are connected to others. Loneliness is so bad for us, in fact, says a new study It can accelerate the aging process more than smoking.

“Loneliness among older adults is a silent epidemic,” says Dr. Kerry Burnite, chief executive officer of The Gerontologist Inc., which focuses on aging issues. “We intended to engage with humans,” she tells me.

She notes the difference between being alone and being alone.

“Being single means having more social interaction than you currently have,” she says. “Or you can have no one around and be lonely.” Doctors say that both dynamics can affect us at times.

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Epidemics – which have not gone away, incidentally – have made epidemics – that is – even worse, by limiting social contact with others. Seniors have borne the brunt of the cases and deaths, and have threatened others to stay home.

Other factors can exacerbate loneliness. Family members may be scattered across the country or even around the world, and the highest inflation in four decades makes travel unaffordable for some. Living in rural areas clearly limits opportunities for human contact, as well as frequent participation in religious activities. “social solitude [is] A predictor of mortality compared to traditional clinical risk factors,” a study of nearly 17,000 adults by the National Institutes of Health notes. It says that loneliness is “associated with 62%.” high risk of premature death 75% greater chance of earlier death in women and for men. ,

Zoom, FaceTime, and a good old-fashioned phone can ease this loneliness, but Dr. Burnite says these things are a poor substitute for real contact—a hug from a grandchild or a cup of coffee with a friend. It’s things like this, seemingly few, that can make a big, positive impact.

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How to reduce loneliness? Find a way to serve others through service, Burnite says. “It often has a connection component. It can be as simple as fetching a lemon from your yard (she lives in Southern California) and sharing a cup of coffee,” or some sort of equivalent. Just do something for someone else. It helps them, and you’ll feel great.

“It’s not a big gesture,” she says. Just ask yourself every day: “How can I contribute to the world? And in doing so, it really comes back,” she adds.

Burnite recommends that we be proactive and creative about this. “Maybe call a friend you lost years ago,” she suggests. “Or create a new tradition with a friend, where you can go and watch the Christmas tree or menorah lights up in the community. It’s two things, activism and creativity.”

Remember this if you are alone. you are not alone There are many of us. Chances are there is someone you can help with a small gesture – and in doing so, help yourself too. Now that’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit.

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