OK, it is only a study done on rats but University of Chicago researchers have found that social isolation and stress may increase breast cancer risk 3.3-fold. Rats kept alone had a 135 percent increase in the number of tumors and a more than 8,000 percent increase in tumor size.
Being isolated and exposed increases production of the stress hormone corticosterone and isolated rats took longer to recover from a stressful situation than rats living in small groups.
The findings, published online in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggest that isolation and stress could play a role in human breast cancer risk, said Martha McClintock, a professor of psychology and comparative human development at the University of Chicago.
No stretch to see where I am going with this post. Our elders are often lonely, alone, fearful and distressed – just more factors brewing in a perfect storm against their better health. It is up to all of us to make sure our elders have a supportive social network that can come to their aid, reduce their anxiety, provide peace of mind and reduce isolation. Stress has been linked to many health problems. Our immune system become preoccupied with combating stress that other ailments creep up. It is easy to say we all need life balance but we do. With more people out of work, those left with jobs are often performing the jobs of two people, adding stress to their lives. Those looking for jobs have enough stress. It is taking its toll. Perhaps there is little you can do short term but just being aware of it is a start.