According to Australian census data, almost 1 in 10 Aussies live alone, and this number is predicted to rise as apartment living becomes increasingly accessible. While living solo might sound like the dream for some, studies have linked isolation to worse health outcomes, and interestingly, new data from the Medibank Better Health Index found the incidence of health conditions such as cancer, arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure were all higher amongst those residing alone compared with the general population.
So why might this be? Commenting on the findings, Medibank Medical Director Dr Kevin Cheng says:
“The data is showing us that the incidence of chronic health concerns are higher amongst Aussies who live by themselves. But — before we all run out and get a roommate — it’s important to consider why this could be. For example, it may be that these findings are being influenced by the elderly population, who could be more likely to live by themselves.”
Beating the risks
While it’s clear there can be some negative effects to living alone, the good news is that you can reduce these by making mindful health and lifestyle choices. Here are our tips on how thrive while living independently:
- Eat well. It’s easy to skip meals or eat takeaway when you’re living alone. Harvard Medical School suggests eating three meals a day, having fresh foods daily and cooking in advance in batches as strategies for maintaining a healthy diet on your own.
- Stop smoking and drink less alcohol. According to the Australian Institute of Family studies, men who live alone are more likely to smoke and drink heavily, though this was not the case for women.
- Exercise regularly. The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey showed regular daily exercise was not only good for physical health but also reduced mental decline as people aged.
- Maintain social relationships. Research psychologist John Cacioppo reported that loneliness could impact on a range of health indicators including blood pressure, immune responses, sleep patterns, stress hormones and overall wellbeing amongst older adults. These impacts could be significantly reduced by maintaining relationships with family and friends and forming positive social connections.
For more findings around about how the way you live could impact your health, see here.