Is loneliness linked to Parkinson’s Disease? Study reveals surprising connection

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loneliness-linked-to-parkinsons(NaturalHealth365)  Loneliness can have a serious impact on your mental health, but researchers have found that it can affect your physical health as well.

A study published in October 2023 in JAMA Neurology identified a link between loneliness and an increased risk of Parkinson’s Disease.  This revelation highlights the importance of addressing feelings of isolation not only for mental well-being but also for the preservation of physical health.

Research reveals the astonishing connection between loneliness and Parkinson’s Disease

Researchers examined data from the UK Biobank, encompassing over 490,000 individuals over a 15-year monitoring period.  Surprisingly, they discovered that loneliness was associated with a 37% increased likelihood of receiving a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.

Importantly, this link couldn’t be attributed to behavioral, clinical, or shared genetic risk factors.  While the study couldn’t definitively establish loneliness as a causative factor for Parkinson’s, it undeniably unveiled a connection.  The exact reason behind this association remains unknown, but maintaining social connections is a logical step in reducing Parkinson’s risk.

The results of this study add to an already well-established body of evidence that links loneliness with a number of health issues, including neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Hidden epidemic: A deeper look into health consequences

Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns against social isolation and loneliness, particularly in the elderly.  They cite one report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that asserts more than one-third of adults 45 years old and older feel lonely.

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The study also found that there were certain health risks associated with adults 50 and older who are lonely or socially isolated, including:

  • Significant increase in the risk of premature death from all causes (some evidence shows that this level of risk is greater than those posed by obesity, smoking, and physical inactivity)
  • Higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide
  • 29% increased risk of heart disease
  • 32% increased risk of stroke
  • 50% increased risk of dementia
  • In heart failure patients, loneliness was associated with
    • Increased risk of death by almost four times
    • 57% increased risk of visits to the emergency department
    • 68% increased risk of hospitalization

As you can see, loneliness goes far deeper than someone just feeling a little blue because they are alone.  It can have severe consequences.

Tips to combat loneliness to lower your risk of Parkinson’s Disease

Humans are meant to be connected to each other.  If you are socially isolated or dealing with loneliness, here’s what you can do to get connected:

  • Visit or talk on the phone with a friend or family member a couple of times a week at least
  • Schedule a weekly lunch date with a friend
  • Maintain social connections with letters, phone calls, or even social media and email
  • Volunteer
  • Get involved in your community
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get a pet
  • Join a special interest group, club, or book club
  • Reach out to national organizations that may help or offer valuable resources, such as the National Council on Aging

Loneliness happens to everyone from time to time, but it doesn’t have to be a regular part of your life.  Take steps today to combat it and live a healthier, happier life.

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