Loneliness among the elderly can lead to health problems
Loneliness has been receiving a lot of attention over the past few years, especially in the Republic of Singapore. It is worrying to hear news of the impact and damaging consequences of this ‘state of mind’ as we will come to discuss. Already in 2019, more and more of the country’s elderly citizens (baby boomers) are facing this new battle as they retire.
In this article by Pacific Prime Singapore, we will look at some of the reasons for loneliness in the population, make suggestions on how society can together alleviate this problem, and discuss how comprehensive health insurance coverage in Singapore can help to fight the consequences of loneliness.
Why are Singaporeans living longer?
In Singapore, men and women are expected to live up to 78.8 years and 83.3 years, respectively, and one of the main reasons behind this is the country’s decades of investment in its healthcare system. High standards of medical care and use of the latest technology have truly revolutionized healthcare for the aging population in Singapore.
That includes programs oriented on early prevention and detection of chronic diseases. Chronic disease management within primary and community-based healthcare have yielded positive results in supporting the longevity of the population. Diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure are serious problems but are mainly under control within the older community.
Singapore has one of the highest life expectancies and lowest fertility rates in the world. According to Today, the country’s population size is expected to reach 6.34 million in 2030, with reference from the United Nations (UN). By then we will be expecting the number of people aged over 65 years or older to total around 1.8 million people, roughly 28% of the population. By 2050 the elderly population is estimated to make up to almost half of all Singaporeans in the population.
An aging population will have a profound effect on society and the economy. We will see a growing demand for services such as healthcare coupled with a smaller pool of working-age Singaporeans to support the elderly population.
The increase in life expectancy means there is also an increasing concern for individuals to become susceptible to loneliness as they get older.
What is Loneliness?
There are many interpretations of loneliness, some describe it as a state of solitude or being empty, but loneliness is a state of mind experienced by those feeling lonely. It is also important to note that loneliness reflects the absence of communication, not the absence of people. So even if the sufferer is around people, the fact that they are unable to connect with those people is what causes them to feel lonely.
Main causes of loneliness
Retirement: Although your whole life has been geared towards retirement, you may find yourself missing the day-to-day contact with colleagues and the expectation of completing daily tasks. Also changing your routine may feel strange and unusual when you are alone.
Bereavement: The loss of your close partner or family member can cause long-term chronic loneliness. However, you may be in a situation where your partner has to move to a care home, leaving you both separated and alone.
Lack of friends and companions: As you age, you will find that your peers have either passed away or are no longer living in the same area. They may also be suffering from health conditions that prohibit them from traveling to meet and socialize.
Location: The location of where you live, such as a residential care home, may be far from family and friends, or the place is difficult to get to. Family in our modern times may be geographically scattered – living further apart due to work, or family breakups.
Lack of transport: Public transport may be limited in the area, or certain health conditions make it impossible for older people to use it. Driving your own vehicle may also not be possible due to, for example, health problems. Not having the independence to travel reduces the opportunities for social contact and can lead to feelings of social isolation.
Financial difficulties: Financial problems of the elderly may also be a source of limitation for travel and socializing.
Health implications of loneliness
Many studies have shown that loneliness can have serious effects on one’s health. According to Singapore, Longitudinal Ageing Studies, elderly citizens who live alone are 1.7 times more likely to die prematurely than seniors living with others. Even with the country’s effective health care system, the effects of loneliness are regrettably reducing the life expectancy of many.
Some of the negative effects of loneliness on both physical and mental health include:
- Depression and suicide
- Cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Increased stress levels
- Decreased memory and learning
- Antisocial behavior
- Increased inflammation
- Reduced viral immunity
- Poor decision-making
- Alcoholism and drug abuse
- The progression of Alzheimer’s disease
Tips to stave off loneliness
Elderly citizens can overcome loneliness if they put conscious effort to make a change. Overcoming one’s loneliness, in the long run, can make those affected happier, healthier, and also inspires others around you in a positive way.
Here are some ways to overcome loneliness:
- Recognize that loneliness is a sign that something needs to change. Review your health and the surrounding environment. Understand the areas you can improve on.
- Understand the effects that loneliness has on your life, both physically and mentally.
- Consider engaging in community service, or another activity that you enjoy with passion. These situations present the best opportunities to meet people and cultivate new friendships and social interactions.
- Focus on developing quality relationships with people who share similar attitudes, interests, and values with you.
- Expect the best. Lonely people often expect rejection, so instead focus on positive thoughts and attitudes in your social relationships.
Getting insurance to cover health problems arising from loneliness
Many of the adverse health effects of loneliness affect the elderly’s mental health but also puts a high burden on the heart. It is then imperative to secure a health insurance plan that will cover the costs related to both mental health benefits, as well as outpatient care, and hospitalization due to, for example, a heart stroke.
An aging population’s medical condition requires more attention and more frequent visits to the doctor. Thus to ensure the best care possible and access to doctors without long queues, private health coverage is recommended.
Contact Pacific Prime Singapore today for impartial insurance advice, an obligation-free quote, and a free plan comparison!
His expert view and wealth of knowledge on insurance can also be found in his blogs for China, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
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