Digestive Diseases Linked to Loneliness and Depression in Older Adults

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Loneliness and depression are prevalent mental health conditions that can greatly affect physical well-being. According to a recent study in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, older adults with digestive diseases are more prone to experiencing feelings of loneliness and depression compared to those without such conditions.

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, analyzing data from over 7,000 older adults, it was found that 60.4% of those with digestive diseases reported experiencing feelings of loneliness. In comparison, only 55.6% of older adults without digestive diseases reported similar feelings. Furthermore, the study revealed that 12.7% of older adults with digestive diseases reported severe depression, whereas this figure stood at 7.5% for those without digestive diseases.

In addition, the study revealed a correlation between loneliness, depression, and lower perceived health in older adults with digestive diseases. This implies that those who reported feeling lonely or depressed were more inclined to rate their overall health as poor or fair.

The study emphasizes the significance of screening older adults with digestive diseases for loneliness and depression. Identifying and treating these mental health conditions early on can result in better outcomes for both physical and mental well-being.

What factors contribute to the higher likelihood of loneliness and depression among older adults with digestive diseases?

Older adults with digestive diseases are more prone to loneliness and depression for several reasons. Firstly, these conditions often give rise to physical symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea that hinder socializing and participating in activities that bring joy.

Furthermore, digestive diseases often result in social isolation. Individuals with these conditions may feel embarrassed about their symptoms and consequently avoid social gatherings. Moreover, certain digestive disorders can hinder travel, thereby limiting opportunities for social interaction.

Additionally, digestive diseases can greatly affect one’s quality of life. Individuals with such conditions often experience fatigue, pain, and various other symptoms that hinder their ability to engage in activities they find enjoyable. As a result, feelings of isolation and loneliness may arise.

To support older adults with digestive diseases who are dealing with loneliness and depression, there are several helpful strategies. First and foremost, it is crucial to identify and address any underlying medical conditions that may be exacerbating their symptoms. This could involve treating the digestive disease itself as well as addressing other coexisting medical conditions.

Another crucial aspect is offering social support to older adults dealing with digestive diseases. It is essential to encourage them to maintain connections with friends and family members, as this can greatly contribute to their well-being. Furthermore, there are various support groups specifically created for individuals facing digestive diseases. These groups offer a safe and nurturing environment where people can freely share their experiences and connect with others who genuinely empathize with their situation.

Lastly, it is crucial to address any underlying mental health conditions, such as depression. This may include a combination of medication and therapy or other suitable treatments.

If you are an older adult dealing with a digestive disease and feeling lonely or depressed, remember that you’re not alone. There are people who genuinely care about your well-being and are willing to provide assistance. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional for the support you need.


Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan. (2023, September 12). Older adults with digestive diseases experience higher rates of loneliness, depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/09/230912165720.htm

Older adults with digestive diseases experience higher rates of loneliness, depression | Michigan Medicine. (2023, September 12). Www.michiganmedicine.orghttps://www.michiganmedicine.org/health-lab/older-adults-digestive-diseases-experience-higher-rates-loneliness-depression

Cohen-Mekelburg, S., Jordan, A., Kenney, B., Burgess, H. J., Chang, J., Hsou Mei Hu, Tapper, E. B., Langa, K. M., Levine, D. A., & Waljee, A. K. (2023). Loneliness and Depressive Symptoms are High Among Older Adults with Digestive Disease and associated with Lower Perceived Health. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2023.08.027