The number of older Americans living alone is on the rise. Nearly 16 million people aged 65 and older in the US lived solo in 2022, three times as many who lived alone in that age group in the 1960s. And as Baby Boomers age, that number is expected to grow even more, raising significant questions about the country’s future. Living alone has become increasingly common in recent years. In the United States, for example, the number of people living alone has increased by 50% since 1970. While living alone has many benefits, such as independence and privacy, there are also some potential health risks.
Loneliness and Social Isolation
One of the most significant health risks of living alone is loneliness and social isolation. Loneliness is the subjective feeling of being alone, while social isolation is the objective lack of social interaction. Both loneliness and social isolation have been linked to several negative health outcomes, including:
- Increased risk of premature death
- Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes
- Increased risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide
- Decline in cognitive function
- Reduced immune function
In addition to the mental health risks, living alone can also hurt physical health. For example, people who live alone are less likely to be physically active. They may also be more likely to eat unhealthy foods and skip doctor’s appointments.
The mental health risks of living alone are particularly pronounced for older adults. Older adults living alone are likelier to experience loneliness, depression, and anxiety. They are also more likely to have cognitive decline and dementia.
What Can You Do to Reduce the Risks?
If you live alone, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the risks of loneliness and social isolation. These include:
- Stay connected with friends and family.
- Get involved in social activities.
- Volunteer your time to a cause you care about.
- Take care of your physical and mental health.
If you feel lonely or isolated, it is vital to reach out for help. Talk to your doctor, a therapist, or a trusted friend or family member. There are also many resources available online and in your community.
Living alone does not have to be a lonely experience. By taking steps to stay connected with others and to take care of your health, you can reduce the risks of loneliness and social isolation and live a long and healthy life.