Older adults who joined in group exercise classes experienced reduced loneliness and social isolation, find a new study. The findings of the study are published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Seniors face an increased risk of developing serious health problems or even death if they lack social connections or feel alone. Loneliness is associated with higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide. Experts say social isolation could have the same impact on an older person's health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
"As the country's demographics shift, more people are living alone than ever before," stated the study's lead author, Allison Moser Mays, MD. We need sustainable ideas to help this burgeoning population thrive as they age, or there will be serious consequences."
The study followed 382 participants ages 52 to 104 from July 2018 through March 2020, when the pandemic forced the classes to move online.
Participants completed questionnaires regarding their social connections and loneliness before starting their course and after 6 months. At the end of that period, investigators found a 6.9 percent decrease in loneliness and a 3.3 percent improvement in social connectedness, after adjusting for age, gender, and other characteristics.
Community-based group health class participants reported reduced loneliness and social isolation at a 6-month follow-up.