Vatican Radio is reporting that at mass on Monday, Pope Francis urged married couples in attendance to have children. “This culture of well-being from ten years ago convinced us: ‘It’s better not to have children! It’s better! You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be care-free … it might be better — more comfortable — to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog,” the Pope stated. “Then, in the end, this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.”
Whether you are a dog, cat, or kid person, Pope Francis stumbled into a territory that has recently received scientific attention: the effects of solitude on old age. In February, psychologist John Cacioppo — the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago — and his colleagues presented research on this very subject at the 2014 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago.
The team’s research was presented during “Rewarding Social Connections Promote Successful Aging,” and explained that over a six-year period, loneliness was associated with an increased mortality risk in their sample population of 2,101 adults over the age of 50. UChicagoNews delved further into the results, explaining that the chances of premature death as a result of loneliness increased by 14 percent. Isolation can also increase blood pressure, lead to depression, interrupt sleep, and alter gene expression. This erodes the mental and physical well-being of the individual, contributing to a decreased quality of life.