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If you've ever been accused of being uncool for spending time with your parents then a) get better friends and b) you can now tell them it helps them live longer.

In a study conducted by the University of California, people with an average age of 71 were found to be very vulnerable to loneliness - which can be a major cause for health decline.

Some 1,604 people participated in the survey and were asked if they ever feel left out, if they feel isolated and if they have a lack of companionship.

Results found that 43 per cent of women who were interviewed confessed to feeling lonely whereas only 14 per cent of all participants admitted to having an adequate relationship with another person.

Perhaps the most concerning statistic from the survey is that 23 per cent of people died within six years of taking part in the study.

The research found that loneliness can lead to a string of health problems including difficulty in everyday living, problems with upper extremity tasks, trouble with walking and poor stair navigation.

In an interview with the New York Times, social worker Barbara Moscowitz, said:

The need we’ve had our entire lives — people who know us, value us, who bring us joy — that never goes away.

The New York Times add that elderly people are more likely to place a greater emphasise on certain relationships, more so than most younger people.

That isn't always reciprocated by other, especially children or grandchildren, mostly because they haven't been around as long and haven't learned the skills to develop a successful and sustainable relationships, such as tolerance.

This selective approach to relationships has been dubbed "socioemotional selectivity" by Stanford University psychologist, Laura Carstensen.

Rosemary Blieszner, a professor of human development at Virginia Tech added:

They're pretty tolerant of friends' imperfections and idiosyncrasies, more than young adults.

You bring a lot more experience to your friendships when you're older.

You know what's worth fighting about and not worth fighting about.

These results should therefore indicate that we should be spending more time with our elders. It is also important to stress the value of relationships between older people, either through assisted living environments or a more independent lifestyl - old people are likely to live longer if they have more interactions.

The study concludes by admitting that elderly patients should be asked more about their state of loneliness in order to address the problem sooner.

Ultimately, by asking about psychosocial concerns important to patients, our treatment focus may shift, and we will likely enhance the physician-patient relationship.

By identifying loneliness we will be better able to target interventions intended to prevent functional decline and disability.

HT Town and Country Mag

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