opposite of sex

“Sex sells.” That’s a phrase I heard a lot when I was young and impressionable and one of the many reasons I included it as one of the 5 main ingredients in The Power of 5: The Ultimate Formula for Longevity and Remaining Youthful. This is the first of 2 blogs on sex I plan to post this month.

Let us consider intimacy or sex for the moment and think about its opposite.

The opposite of sex/intimacy is loneliness. Did you guess this?

Loneliness carries a significant health risk, equivalent to the negative impact of obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness or the lack of contacts or relationships leads to chemical changes in our bodies that create inflammatory reactions and essentially cause premature aging.

The problem of loneliness among our aging population, especially baby boomers, is considerable and growing. For a multitude of reasons, almost 20% of boomers have no children. In addition to the 20%, significant numbers have children who are estranged, disabled, or live great distances away.

So now that we know that loneliness is a health risk, and many (at least 20%) of our aging population are at risk, what can be done about it?

Unfortunately, just like the other elements in The Power of 5, medical science has not developed a pill to treat this condition. But as with the other ingredients in The Power of 5, addressing loneliness will take intentional effort.

We can learn lessons from our older adults who understand the critical need for connections and having friends and loved ones nearby. Those who have been successful have built and maintained a support network, thus avoiding earlier death rates. The recommendation here is planning. Just like I recommend adjusting what you eat and how much you should exercise, I recommend planning to avoid isolation and loneliness. There are many choices to be made, which may including moving to retirement communities or villages where there are mixes of different age groups, or as many older adults are doing, moving to urban areas or college towns that also offer a mix of age groups. Joining activity groups, depending on your interests, or becoming involved in civic or religious community groups are also great options to ward off loneliness.

Whatever the choice you make, do it with intention. Plan earlier in life than you might have previously expected to, and when possible, include your family in the discussion.

In my next blog, I will discuss the benefits of the opposite of loneliness – sex and intimacy; how that can lead to remaining youthful.

To a long and healthy life,
David Bernstein,MD

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