A study claims that having a healthy relationship with your parents helps them stay healthy for longer.
Ever since we were all kids we have been told that family time was important and spending time together with our parents and siblings would keep us happy. It is not just that family will be there for you no matter what, they even keep you healthy and help your mothers live longer. This has been proven by a recent study that was carried out by the researchers at the University of California, San Fransisco. According to the study, loneliness plays a major role in the decline of our health, especially during old age. The study proves that it is important for children to spend time with their parents especially when they grow old. So, it isn't just something grandma says, it's now something science says. The research was conducted on 1600 adults. The average age of all the participants was 71 years. Despite having a fair amount of control over socio-economic status and health, it was proven that loneliness played a vital role in how long people live.
The study showed that loneliness was directly connected to the mortality rate. Around 23% of the participants who claimed to be lonely and not frequently in touch with their families passed away within six years of the study. In the same amount of time, only 14% of those who reported adequate companionship died. 59% of the participants were women. Barbara Moscowitz, a senior geriatric social worker at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained to The New York Times, “The need we’ve had our entire lives — people who know us, value us, who bring us joy — that never goes away."
Study Shows the More You Hang out with Your Mom, the Longer She’ll Live https://t.co/AfAIpdSDZO— Michelle Nelson (@Fitchick2016) March 5, 2019
As a part of the study, participants were asked three main questions - if they felt like they were left out, felt like they lacked companionship, and whether they felt isolated. Sadly, 43% of the participants responded in affirmative to all three questions. The study found out that those participants who reported feeling more lonely showed that they faced a lot more difficulty in performing daily activities. They even had trouble in performing tasks that use their mobility, like walking or reaching their arms above their head, as well as difficulty doing things such as climbing. This goes to show these individuals are having a hard time being independent.
Being lonely was directly associated with a higher risk of death as an individual grows older. "Loneliness is an important contributor to human suffering, especially in elderly persons, among whom prevalence rates may be higher," the study states. "Loneliness is the subjective feeling of isolation, not belonging, or lacking companionship."
It is important for people to be in touch with their family and at the same time, build friendships. It helps them feel more valued and also helps their health, both mentally and physically. However, the way we prioritize friendships as we get older may evolve.
Laura Carstensen, a Stanford University psychologist, developed an influential theory called “socioemotional selectivity” according to which, as people sense their remaining time shrinking, they shed superficial relationships to concentrate on those they find most meaningful. The elderly value their relationships a lot, so much so that they often overlook a great deal more than their children or even their grandchildren do. It comes down to important relational skills, Rosemary Blieszner, a professor of human development at Virginia Tech, told The New York Times — skills that our grandparents have had a lifetime to hone.
“They’re pretty tolerant of friends’ imperfections and idiosyncrasies, more than young adults,” she said. “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.” It is also very important for us to encourage elderly relationships. Older people generally tend to thrive in independent or assisted living environments as they provide more ways to mingle, connect, and thrive. Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center says, “They invest more in their remaining connections,” adding, “They optimize friendships, rather than try to maximize them.”
Isolation and loneliness take a serious toll on people, especially the elderly. The effects seen are both psychological and physical. "For a host of reasons, no one is addressing the individual’s daily needs — food, medication, medical appointments,” Ms. Moscowitz explains. “The refrigerator is empty, but there’s no one to call. People suffer despair, humiliation.” Other than suffering just higher mortality rates, the lonely elderly are at a higher risk of depression, cognitive decline, and illnesses like coronary artery disease. Hence, friendships and family do in fact help save lives. It makes people a lot happier and satisfied in life.
There are many social workers and researchers who are trying to promote familial bonding. Giving them active roles that require them to socialize also helps them stay happy and feel valued. So it isn't just about meeting them for the holidays or driving them to doctor's appointments. Drive them to meet their friends every now and then, have dinner with them more often, spend weekends with them if you can, even for a little while. This way, they will not just live longer but more importantly, live a happier life. Being lonely is not something that anybody enjoys, especially not the elderly. So go and give your mums a call, right away.