IF YOU want to live to a healthy, ripe old age, add "keep connected with family and friends" to the top of your list along with don't smoke, eat well, floss nightly and exercise daily.
QUT School of Nursing head Helen Edwards said living alone had emerged as a key risk factor for a host of chronic diseases and unhealthy aging.
"We know that you are more at risk of diseases of lifestyle and aging such as diabetes, dementia and chronic wounds if you live alone," Prof Edwards, QUT Queensland Dementia Training and Study Centre director, said.
"Researchers suspect a host of factors make living alone such a risk.
"The lack of social interaction and the mental stimulation it brings could be part of the reason.
"But also it might be there is no one to notice that your health is deteriorating and urge you to see a doctor.
"When living alone, you are less likely to eat properly, and it can be an effort to keep active if you don't have someone to coach and support you.
"Research at QUT is also investigating what part social media and the internet will play in keeping people connected as they age. It will be interesting to see how it can mitigate some of the effects of living alone."
Prof Edwards said dementia was not confined to the older population and this would put a significant burden on younger carers.
"There has been an increase in people in their 40s and 50s diagnosed with dementia which means carers are going to be younger.
"Our research at QUT includes a focus on the future needs of the carers.
"We are researching some pressing issues for carers which include respite and sleep so we can offer the appropriate support."