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Stay Well: Mental Health Matters

How to recognize loneliness and depression

Mental health is just as important as physical health when it comes to your overall wellbeing. For some, the golden years in life may seem quieter or lonelier than years before. That’s why it’s especially important to look at your wellbeing not only physically, but also emotionally, as you age.

Everyone gets lonely from time to time. Loneliness is a primary human emotion, and it’s okay to feel alone. But its long-term effects can become unhealthy — from a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, to depression and even suicidal thoughts.

There is good news, however. Developing and nurturing strong relationships, and staying engaged socially, may have positive health effects.

Loneliness and depression

Living far away from family members or not being able to do the activities you once enjoyed may lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. And depression can make you lose interest in things you used to enjoy — such as activities that might have once contributed to your social interactions.

Signs to watch out for

Recognizing depression starts with knowing the signs and symptoms.

Some of the signs can include:

  • Anxious, irritable or irrational behavior
  • Mood swings
  • Sleeping a lot or not at all
  • Withdrawing from other people
  • Not eating or eating a lot more than usual
  • Trouble focusing on tasks
  • Problems with memory
  • Not washing, dressing or taking care of daily hygiene
  • Acting paranoid or suspicious
  • Hearing voices
  • Thinking or talking about suicide

Talk to your doctor

If you’re concerned about how you’re feeling, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

Ways to stay active

  • Plan a dinner or movie night or even a weekend getaway. Better yet, make it a weekly habit — like Tuesday night dinner. Gather with one or more friends to make it a girls’ or guys’ night.
  • Find people with similar interests. Take a class at your local community college or craft supply store. Join a book club. Check out your local community or senior center.
  • Adopt a pet. A well-loved pet becomes part of your family and is a constant companion. Caring for your pet can also give you a sense of meaning in your life. Make sure your pet matches your abilities. For example, if you’re not able to walk a dog, then consider a different pet.

    If you have a caregiver, make sure they can handle any responsibilities that you cannot.

Take action

Understanding what drives loneliness is the first step. Taking action towards positive change is another. That’s where we come in. We offer support that can help you make meaningful social connections through our wellness programs:

Take action toward positive change with these Aetna resources

  • SilverSneakers® — Our fitness program offers a gym membership at no extra cost to over 16,000 participating locations nationwide. It includes access to a variety of classes. And it enables you to stay social and engaged through exercise.
  • Resources For Living® — Our community referral program can connect you with transportation, help at home, social and recreational activities, caregiver support, and more. The referrals are at no extra cost to you. But if you choose to use services that have associated costs, you’ll need to pay for those expenses.

If you’re working with an Aetna nurse, they may refer you to our AbleTo program, new for 2020.

There are many health issues that may make you feel stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. These can include:

  • Managing a chronic condition
  • Experiencing a major medical event
  • Going through a significant life change

AbleTo can help you feel better by working one-on-one with specially trained professionals from the comfort of your home. The AbleTo program is delivered privately and confidentially with a professional therapist and coach by phone or video chat.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Health information programs provide general health information and are not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment by a physician or other health care professional. Contact a health care professional with any questions or concerns about specific health care needs. 

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      Page last updated: Dec 30, 2019

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