This time of year many people are snuggling indoors enjoying the calm that follows a highly social holiday season. For some though, the holidays can be a reminder of their lack of family and friends, and this time of year can feel lonelier than ever. Not only can social isolation feel bad, it can be bad for your health too.
If you are aware of your own lack of community, you are not alone. About a third of Americans over the age of 65, and half of those over 85, live alone. And, according to social researcher Robert Putnam in his book Bowling Alone, Americans have become increasingly cut off from their families, neighbors, and communities for decades now.
While the reasons for this may include changing social norms, urban sprawl, and the internet, Putnam writes that more socially active people “tend to forgo the one activity—TV watching—that is most lethal to community involvement.” And all that TV watching is not helping our waistlines either, adding to our risk for other health problems.
Loneliness and social isolation are known risk factors for conditions like heart disease and stroke, sleep disturbances, and depression. And now researchers out of the Netherlands have added type 2 diabetes to the list.
Their study, published in BMC Public Health, looked at almost 3,000 men and women between the ages of 40 and 75. All the participants were tested for diabetes. Then they were asked questions about their social activity. Things like,
- How many people are in your social network?
- How often do you interact with those people?
- Are they family members or friends?
The researchers found that people with type 2 diabetes were more likely to have
- smaller social networks,
- social circles made up of fewer friends than family, and
- they were more geographically isolated.
In a follow-up blog post, lead author Stephanie Brinkhues wrote, “Social network size and social participation may be used as a risk indicator in diabetes prevention strategies.” Her suggestion? Combine exercise with social activity. Joining a walking group, or an exercise class can help get you get moving and make new friends: both great for helping to prevent and treat diabetes.
Another great idea? Come in and get yourself tested for diabetes. Diabetes is one of those silent diseases that you can have and not even know it, especially in its early stages. It’s easy to get tested using a simple blood test. Early detection offers your best defense against a disease that can lead to limb amputation, kidney failure, blindness and stroke. You may also find out if you are prediabetic, a condition that is reversible. According to the Centers for Disease Control, if left untreated, prediabetes is likely to develop into full blown type 2 diabetes within five years.
Don’t forget, we are also part of your community, and we want to help you live a healthy life. Contact us now to make an appointment in our Greenville, TX office or one of our satellite clinics throughout Hunt County.