The experience of living alone carries a unique blend of freedoms and challenges. While many relish the autonomy and privacy, the absence of daily social interaction can sometimes weigh heavy.
And now, a new study from October 2023 suggests that living alone might be linked to something even more severe: an increased risk of cancer mortality.
Given the gravity of this association, it’s time to explore what actionable steps we can take in the face of this emerging public health concern.
The Importance of Early Detection
The study found that adults living alone are at a higher risk of cancer death, even after adjusting for multiple sociodemographic characteristics and cancer risk factors. This may suggest that one of the contributing factors could be the delay or lack of early detection. Living alone means there’s no partner or family member to insist on regular check-ups or notice early warning signs.
Scheduling regular screenings and check-ups can mitigate this risk. Apps and virtual healthcare services can serve as digital “nudgers,” reminding you to attend appointments or perform self-examinations.
Social Support and Mental Well-being
The emotional and psychological benefits of social support are well-documented. While the study didn’t really explore the reasons behind the increased cancer mortality among those living alone, it’s reasonable to consider the role of emotional well-being.
Stress, anxiety, and loneliness can have physiological impacts that may contribute to poorer health outcomes, including an elevated risk of cancer.
Consider joining community groups, maintaining an active social life through digital means, or adopting a pet. Emotional support animals have been found to reduce stress and improve mental well-being.
Accessibility to Healthcare Services
Living alone often means managing all household responsibilities, including healthcare,
single-handedly. This could result in putting off doctor’s visits or skipping screenings due to lack of time or focus.
Leverage telemedicine consultations and at-home test kits where available. These are not just conveniences but necessities for those juggling multiple responsibilities alone.
Dietary and Lifestyle Choices
When you’re the only one accountable for what’s in the fridge or the decision to exercise, it’s easy to slip into less healthy habits. Poor dietary choices and a sedentary lifestyle are significant risk factors for various types of cancer.
Meal planning apps and online fitness programs can help you maintain a balanced diet and regular exercise. Some services deliver pre-portioned healthy meals, making it easier to stick to a nutritious diet.
Financial Planning for Healthcare
Being the sole earner and spender in a household can sometimes make healthcare seem like a secondary priority due to financial constraints. However, underinvestment in health can have long-term repercussions.
Look into healthcare plans that offer comprehensive cancer coverage. Consider setting up a health savings account to prepare for unforeseen medical expenses.
Social Health Affects Physical Health
The finding that living alone is associated with an increased risk of cancer mortality should serve as a wake-up call. It’s an opportunity to scrutinize our lifestyles and make changes that could literally be life-saving.
By adopting more proactive healthcare strategies, nurturing our social lives, and making smarter lifestyle choices, we can challenge the statistics and ensure that living alone doesn’t have to mean living at risk.