A Serious Disease That Affects Men (And How You Can Beat It)
Editor’s Note: From time to time, we like to share thought-provoking “guest articles” from other bright minds in our industry. The essay below is a brilliant example. It comes from Andy Snyder, founder of Manward Press. Andy’s agreed to share it in Wealthy Retirement because it sheds light on a startling health epidemic sweeping the nation. And the rise of this chronic illness bears a tight correlation to the elderly population. It’s something retirees can’t afford to ignore.
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The evidence is equal parts overwhelming and fascinating. There’s a new chronic illness in America, and it’s spreading like few scientists thought possible.
In fact, it’s now thought that one of America’s great forefathers suffered from the affliction… and our country took a different path because of it.
You see, when Thomas Jefferson returned home from his diplomatic duties in Europe, he had no plans to remain in the dirty world of politics. He went home to Monticello and planned to live out a peaceful, carefree retirement.
His plans were no different from the plans of most modern retirees.
But loneliness quickly set in. Jefferson had few callers and little interaction with the world outside of his vast estate.
It affected him greatly. His physical and mental health suffered quickly.
To overcome what ailed him, he knew he needed to return to Philadelphia and his vast network of social connections. Once he did, his body and mind were quickly refreshed. Soon he was the vice president and then the president of a budding country.
It only happened because he got lonely… and he was smart enough to do something about it.
This idea is why “Connections” is the third leg of the Manward Triad. The folks we surround ourselves with and our interactions with them are key to leading rich, fulfilling lives.
Connect or Die
Men often have a tough time admitting they’re lonely, but very recent research shows just how deadly solitude can be.
“Loneliness has surprisingly broad and profound health effects,” says John T. Cacioppo, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Chicago and a leading voice on the topic. “Lonely people have more miserable lives and earlier deaths.”
to high blood pressure, sleep disorders, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
What’s crazy, though, is the rate that chronic loneliness seems to be storming through our society. It’s always been around, but it’s turning out to be far more common in retiring baby boomers than in past generations.
One study showed that the number of folks who say they have no one to discuss important matters with rose from just 10% in 1985 to 24% in 2004… and to 35% today.
What’s worse is the direct correlation between the affliction… and early death and other diseases.
It’s a major – and growing – problem in America.
“The profound effects of loneliness on health and independence are a critical public health problem,” said Dr. Carla M. Perissinotto, a geriatrician at the University of California. “It is no longer medically or ethically acceptable to ignore older adults who feel lonely and marginalized.”
Helping researchers is new data that shows loneliness is truly an affliction in our brains.
The fine folks at MIT recently published a study that shows an area of the brain long known as the home for depression is also a hot spot for chronic loneliness. It’s called the dorsal raphe nucleus, and it does some crazy things.
In fact, when researchers studied loneliness in lab rats, they found that dopamine neurons in this section of the brain were inactive when the rats were housed together. But when rats that had been isolated for just 24 hours were reintroduced with others, the neural activity surged.
It was a major breakthrough in the science of loneliness.
Exercise Your Connections
Science has clearly proven that being alone a lot is dangerous. Acute loneliness can kill.
We need our connections to stay healthy, successful and fulfilled.
To beat this affliction, it’s critical you nurture your social relations. Men especially need to be careful because our culture tends to put less weight on our need for an inner circle of companions.
Fortunately, the solution is not all that complex.
It starts, like so many of the ideas we explore at Manward, with education. Just knowing loneliness can kill is a key step. It should be the catalyst that pushes you forward.
From there, it’s merely a matter of treating your connections no differently than you would any form of exercise.
Make it a routine… and force yourself if necessary.
Just as doctors urge us to get 150 minutes of exercise each week, be sure to get several hours’ worth of social interaction every week.
It doesn’t matter how you do it. Some folks hang out at a coffee shop. Others spend time with family or get a part-time job. I recommend volunteering. I devote more than 300 hours of my time each year to volunteer efforts. It absolutely keeps me connected.
If you’re one of our manly readers across the pond, you can check out Men’s Sheds (here’s a link). It’s a group that started in Australia and has since spread to England, Ireland and Scotland – with more than 300 locations.
Its purpose is simple… create a spot for men to get together, connect and build things.
It’s our kind of project.
Yes, retirement is great. No more boss, no more daily grind and no more dealing with folks you may not particularly be fond of. But it’s also a recipe for loneliness.
Thomas Jefferson realized it and fought back. It changed the course of American history.
What will you do when you get lonely?