Loneliness the `hidden killer` of elderly

Last Updated: Feb 02, 2011, 00:00 AM IST

London: Loneliness is the `hidden killer` of the elderly, undermining health as much as obesity or smoking. Almost one in 10 elderly people suffers `intense` loneliness, leading to increased risk of depression, lack of exercise and poor eating habits.

Greater recognition is needed among health professionals of the links between poor health and loneliness, it is claimed. According to a poll of 2,200, fewer than one in five has ever seen or heard information about loneliness as a health risk, reports the Daily Mail.

Andrew Barnett, of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, one of the organisers of The Campaign to End Loneliness, said: "We need to consider the practical...emotional and psychological implications of growing numbers of older people."

The World Health Organisation has rated loneliness as a higher risk to health than smoking and as great a risk as obesity.

Researchers also say lack of social interaction increases the chances of suffering degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer`s.