Jo Ann Jenkins, the CEO of AARP, writes an article in the June issue of AARP Bulletin: The Keys to Healthy Living: Friendship and Purpose. The subtitle, “Changes in Lifestyle and outlook can affect longevity,” enticed me to read on.
We know that we’re living longer, and we’re taking more responsibility for our own health. The choices we make each day are more important than an occasional doctor visit. Logically, I know I need to make better choices, and I do make some okay choices, yet I have a long way to go.
It’s easy for us to digitally obtain more and better information to help us with our food and health choices. We can also easily find tools for changes that will guide us toward physical and emotional well-being. We also must focus on other things, such as building strong social connections and reducing social isolation and loneliness. We need to realize our sense of purpose and develop an optimistic outlook on aging.
Being social is important to your health. If you have close friends, you’re “more likely to get plenty of sleep, eat healthy foods, maintain peace of mind and have less stress, engage in brain health activities, and take on new challenges and hobbies.” Do you fit this description, at least partially? When you count your blessings, do you include your close friends in the plus column?
Loneliness is the new smoking. According to one researcher, it is equally as bad for you as inhaling 15 cigarettes a day. Studies show that loneliness can shave eight years off life expectancy, that it has a big negative effect on quality of life, and that it’s the single largest predictor of dissatisfaction with health care. The mortality rate for loneliness is greater than that of obesity.
A “Minister of Loneliness” has been appointed in Great Britain to tackle the growing social isolation problem there. In California, CareMore (and its “Chief Togetherness Officer”) became the first U.S. health care provider to address loneliness and its health impact.
Are you ready to tackle your loneliness? Perhaps appoint a Friend-in-Charge to frequently gather your circle of friends for coffee or a quick catch-up on what’s happening. It’ll do you a world of good. Trust me.