NDSU Extension - Sargent County

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DIY? Or Get Help?

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Sometimes a home improvement project is a DIY (do-it-yourself) project.  Other times, it is one that requires getting professional help. The same goes for self-improvement projects.  Sometimes we can help ourselves; and some times we need help from others, including professionals.

Social isolation, loneliness, and depression are three distinctly different things.  It is important to understand the differences, and address each one appropriately.

Social isolation is objective, meaning it is measurable.  It refers to a state of having minimal contact with other people.  Seventeen to twenty percent of Americans over the age of 65 years are socially isolated. 

Loneliness, on the other hand, is subjective, meaning it is feelings-based.  It refers to a dissatisfaction with the quantity and quality of one’s social relationships.  The incidence of loneliness among Americans age 45 years old and older ranges from 35% - 43%. 

Lastly, depression is a complex medical and mental health condition that includes several sub-types.  It is characterized by a variety of symptoms such as inability to concentrate; insomnia; loss of appetite; tiredness or fatigue; extremely negative or sad feelings and thoughts.  When these types of symptoms occur together during a period of more than two weeks, a medical professional may diagnose it as depression. 

About 4% of people over age 55 residing independently in the community suffer from major depression in any given year.  Dealing with depression typically requires a variety of approaches to treatment, including therapeutic support, social support from others, exercise, diet, rest and medication.

Feelings of isolation can impact mental health and cognitive abilities, and depression later in life has been associated with cognitive impairment and dementia.

Loneliness is a significant predictor of poor health.  In fact, the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day or drinking six alcoholic beverages a day.  It is twice as dangerous as obesity.

To deal with social isolation and loneliness, and decrease the risk for developing depression, do things that promote mental health and wellness.  Stay tuned!  Next week’s column will provide a list of action steps.


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