Loneliness and the brain: Is it MORE deadly than COVID-19?
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by: Joy Jensen, staff writer | December 24, 2020
(NaturalHealth365) As the practice of social distancing due to COVID-19 continues and more states increase the regulations limiting contact between people, this holiday season will be lonelier than ever for many individuals. In fact, some of the worst affected by loneliness due to COVID-19 lockdowns is our elderly, who have been left for weeks – and even months – at a time with little social interaction due to the pandemic. All of this in the name of keeping people “safe?!”
One new study delves into what loneliness does to the brain. However, looking beyond the studies to the deaths of seniors across the country as long-term care facilities have shut their doors and suspended most group activities, one must wonder if loneliness is even more deadly and devastating than the virus.
Scientists look at loneliness and how it changes the brain
Researchers recently conducted a study that looked at lonely people and what happens in their brain that makes them distinct. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data, along with psychological self-assessments and genetics in around 40,000 older and middle-aged adults in the UK, information was compared between individuals who felt lonely and those who didn’t.
They discovered multiple differences in the brains of those who reported often feeling lonely. Their brain had a more strongly wired together “default network:” a group of brain regions that are involved in inner thoughts like imagining, thinking of others, and reminiscing. Researchers believe that this may occur because lonely individuals use memories of the past or imagination and hope of the future to help overcome the social isolation they’re experiencing.
However, the leaders of the study note that we’re only just beginning to discover and understand the impact loneliness has on the brain. As it becomes recognized as a major health issue, learning more about how it manifests in the brain can help us find ways to better treat it.
Reports from across the country tell a darker tale about feeling isolated and alone
Although researchers discovered some interesting differences in the brains of lonely people, recent reports from across the country tell a much darker tale. Across the country, many long-term care facilities have shut their doors to visitors and suspended communal meals and most group activities in an effort to protect the elderly. But in recent reports from both NBC News and the AARP, all the isolation is killing aging adults and may be even more deadly than COVID-19.
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Previously healthy elderly individuals have experienced a sudden loss of mobility, an increase in falls, decreased strength, and the acceleration of dementia. The confinement designed to protect is threatening the lives of long-term care residents. There’s even been an upsurge in elderly deaths with “social isolation/failure to thrive” listed as a contributing cause of death on death certificates.
Recent surveys show that it’s not just the elderly who are affected by loneliness as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. A survey of young adults between 18-35 discovered that 80% of those surveyed reported significant depressive symptoms while going through the pandemic, and 65% reported an increase in feelings of loneliness. Among respondents, 30% reported dependent and harmful levels of drinking.
Bottom line: isolation and loneliness are affecting individuals of all ages, and the consequences are serious. In an attempt to “slow the spread,” we’ve created another devastating health crisis.
The ultimate solution (suppressed by the mainstream media) is to improve the immune function of each and every individual. That’s the best way to reduce the threat of infections and, at the same time, will greatly improve the quality of our life. We should all focus on breathing cleaner air, eating better quality food and building healthier relationships with family and friends.
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