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Less lonely, longer life

If you go through life alone and never see or speak to anyone, you can still reach a blessed age. At least if you're not affected by feelings of loneliness.

Less lonely, longer life

Paraic O'Suilleabhain, a psychologist from the University of Limerick in Ireland, analyzed data from 413 elderly people aged 70-103 years collected in the Berlin Aging Study. O'Suilleabhain followed his group from 1990-1993, when the study began, until 2009.

Some of the participants lived together when the study started. However, most of them lived alone.

The participants had answered a standard questionnaire that psychologists use to measure loneliness. This questionnaire distinguishes two dimensions, social isolation and emotional loneliness. The first dimension means that you see or speak few people, the second that you feel alone.

The table below shows which questions the participants answered, and how the dimensions are related.

Less lonely, longer life

When O'Suilleabhain determined whether loneliness was a factor in the study participants' longevity, he found no association in the cohabiting group. There was, however, a correlation in the group that lived alone.

Social isolation did not affect longevity, but emotional loneliness did. The less lonely the study participants living alone felt, the more years they could live.

Less lonely, longer life

In the Berlin Aging Study, the participants also rated questions to help researchers find out what kind of personality someone has. There was no association between the study participants' personality and the impact of emotional loneliness.

"Present findings suggest future research would benefit from the further examination of associations between emotional loneliness and mortality in older adults who live alone", writes O'Suilleabhain.

"The results of this present study would suggest that the emotional component of loneliness seems to be of relevance to mortality, above social loneliness effects."

Psychosom Med. 2019 Jul/Aug;81(6):521-6.

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Psychology of Longevity

Child that still needs you lengthens your life expectancy Frequent contact with friends and family protects against dementia Long marriage adds years to your life

Child that still needs you lengthens your life expectancy
If you have children and want to have a long life, there are a number of factors that can push your life expectancy either way.

Frequent contact with friends and family protects against dementia
London psychiatrists discovered that healthy sixties who have a lot of contact with friends and family members are less likely to suffer from dementia later in life than lonely peers.

Long marriage adds years to your life
Being married extends your lifespan, and the longer your marriage lasts, the lower your chance of dying.