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April 05, 2006

Green Tea Good, Loneliness Bad Science/Technology

Two keys to healthy aging: green tea and friends/family.

A study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (abstract) looked at a population of Japanese people 70 or more years old. After correcting for other factors, the study found that people who drank 2 or more cups of green tea (with all its anti-oxidants) daily were about as half as likely to develop cogitive impairment as were people who drank no more than 3 cups a week. An astonishing result.

A study published in Psychology and Aging found that loneliness in elderly people is a killer: it is a more potent cause of high blood pressure than any other social or psychological factor. Live Science:

In a new University of Chicago study of men and women 50 to 68 years old, those who scored highest on measures of loneliness also had higher blood pressure. And high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, the number one killer in many industrialized nations and number two the United States.

Lonely people have blood pressure readings as much as 30 points higher than non-lonely people, said the study leaders Louise Hawkley and Christopher Masi. Blood pressure differences between lonely and non-lonely people were smallest at age 50 and greatest among the oldest people tested.

Richard Suzman of the National Institute on Aging, which funded this research, said he was "surprised by the magnitude of the relationship between loneliness and hypertension in this well-controlled, cross-sectional study."

The researchers separated loneliness out from depression, age, race, gender, weight, alcohol consumption, smoking, blood pressure medications, hostility, stress, social support and other factors. [...]

Loneliness was worse for blood pressure than any other psychological or social factor the researchers studied.

Weight loss and physical exercise reduce blood pressure by the same amount that loneliness increases it. Hawkley said this finding especially surprised her.

"It's comparable to the effects you see for the health benefits that are so often advocated such as exercise [to] keep your blood pressure under control," Hawkley told LiveScience.

About one in five Americans is lonely, a gnawing emotional state that is a patchwork of feeling unhappy, stressed out, friendless and hostile.

The main psychological difference between lonely and non-lonely people is that the former perceive stressful circumstances as threatening rather than challenging and cope passively and withdraw from stress rather than trying to solve the problem, said study co-author John T. Cacioppo.

Lonely people who are middle-aged and older tend to also have problems with alcoholism, depression, weak immune system responses to illness, impaired sleep and suicide.

Some psychologists think that associations between loneliness and health or physiology are just part of a generic stress response, but this new research suggests loneliness has a unique impact.

Social trends in the United States suggest a recipe for greater loneliness and thus higher blood pressure and risk of heart disease. The population is aging and more people move around and live alone than ever, contributing to greater separation from caring friends and family. [Emphasis added]

So, as your blogger, I advise you to go have some green tea with friends.

Posted by Jonathan at April 5, 2006 08:58 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Comments

The suburban car culture is a huge contributor to loneliness. The soon-to-be-unsellable McMansions miles from town will become solitary-confinement deathtraps for many Americans unable to drive (either because of physical impairments or not being able to afford gasoline).

Posted by: Bob at April 6, 2006 08:59 AM