7 health benefits of staying socially connected as you get older

Loneliness has been growing as a national health concern for several years. In Australia it affects 25% of people, but the more concerning statistic is that Australians over 75 feel more lonely than any other age group.

Chronic loneliness triggers the fright-flight-fight reaction in the brain which has a cascade effect, impacting mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. The biggest issue with loneliness it compounds. The more lonely a person becomes, the harder it gets to reach out and connect with others.

At St Louis Home Care, we are well aware of how loneliness affects our clients, and we take extra care to spend the time with clients who are at risk of becoming more isolated. We’ve helped many of them develop a better and more supportive social structure in their local communities, and they feel happier, healthier and more positive about getting older as a result.

Loneliness can lead to a range of health issues including depression, anxiety, frailty, heart problems, more hospital visits and an increased incidence in strokes. Therefore, regardless of your age, a sense of belonging and connection to your community is vitally important to your ongoing health and wellbeing. Sometimes this can be provided through family connections, but sometimes this isn’t possible for various reasons.

Developing community connections and learning new social skills can begin at any age and we’re here to help. As social beings, people want to connect and share stories and experiences with other people. And interestingly, social connection is directly proportional to improved health and wellbeing, both physical and mental. Here are some of the health benefits.

Related article: Avoiding loneliness as you get older – ways to stay socially connected

1. Less risk of developing depression and anxiety

Loneliness and depression are associated with poor physical and mental health and research has further shown that loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%.

2. A Longer life

Happier older people live longer, with less health issues and a positive outlook toward ageing. This study discovered that happiness grows with small incremental moments that occur throughout the day.

3. Improved cognitive function

In this study, the rate of cognitive decline was 70 percent less in people with frequent social contact than those with low social activity.

4. Less hospital visits

People with better social structures around them and a sense of belonging experience less physical decline as they age and have less visits to the hospital.

5. Reduced heart problems and stroke

There is less incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure, poor immune function and stroke in people who are more socially connected. 

6. Higher self-esteem

A community that provides a sense of belonging is so important for good mental and emotional health. People feel better about themselves, they’re happier with their lives and experience a greater sense of self-esteem and personal fulfilment in general.

7. Greater purpose and meaning in life

We are naturally inclined to connect and enjoy each other’s company which gives us a sense of purpose and meaning. Good quality relationships with others provides an opportunity to exercise our deep need to love, to care and to share experiences with others, whether they are close and in our intimate circle, or even people we see from time to time.

Read about Marlene’s story here.

Developing new social skills can be started at any age, let us help you

If you feel you have not had the right socials skills to meet other people and make new acquaintances and friends, then please reach out to us and find out about our social programs and home care support. Sometimes it is just a matter of learning some new social skills and overcoming shyness. Call St Louis Home Care in Adelaide on 8332 0950 or St Louis Home Care in Victor Harbor on 8552 1486 and talk to us about our social programs, and how you can use your home care package to improve your social life, pick up some new hobbies or return to things you used to enjoy.