It's a quicker killer than obesity
It’s one thing to feel a little lonely on a Friday night because all of your friends are busy and it’s another when you feel like you have very few relationships or connections with other people so you feel chronically without companionship. That kind of deep loneliness can scar you so badly that colds feel more severe, you can’t remember much of your life as you age, or your heart winds up in such bad shape that it weakens. Seriously.
Researchers are imploring people across the world to form bonds with others so that they can stave off an early death which loneliness may be leading them to.
All the Lonely People
Loneliness is not just a feeling that you lack companionship, it’s a debilitating mood that can impact your life negatively; it can even hasten your death according to new scientific evidence. Professor of Psychology Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad and her team at the Brigham Young University looked at 148 studies about loneliness and concluded, “Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need, crucial to both well-being and survival. Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment. Yet an increasing portion of the US population now experiences isolation regularly.”
The researchers believed that social isolation raised a person’s risk of death by half. Obesity, also a social health epidemic, raises the risk of death by about 30%.
It also appears that the loneliness issue is not a uniquely American problem. Just to the north, Canadians are living alone in larger numbers than ever and may be experiencing similar issues.
North Americans aren’t the only ones feeling the pain of being critically lonely. A middle-aged social networking site in the UK called Granset conducted a study that revealed that 75% of older people in their countries are admittedly lonely and weren’t likely to talk about it. The Telegraph called the UK “the loneliness capital” because “its inhabitants [are] less likely overall to know their neighbours or have strong friendships than people anywhere else in the EU.”
Dr. Holt-Lunstad said the following about how loneliness can affect the body: “There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators. With an increasing aging population, the effect on public health is only anticipated to increase. Indeed, many nations around the world now suggest we are facing a ‘loneliness epidemic.’ The challenge we face now is what can be done about it.”
When people are physically unwell, they report feeling far sicker than those who have a stronger social network of friends, families, and partners. Loneliness has been linked to high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, and other such disorders.
Let’s End Loneliness
Some caring people in the UK began the Campaign to End Loneliness because they feel that this issue is actually costing taxpayers a lot of money as well as leaving people feeling terrible. They estimate that loneliness costs businesses $26 million annually due to sick days.
To further the research, Rice University in Texas conducted their own study that showed that lonely people are no more likely to catch a cold, but when they do they often feel worse and take more sick leave.
But we’re not just talking about older generations experiencing loneliness in record numbers; yet another study done by the Mental Health Foundation found that people from 18-34 were more likely to say they were lonely than people over the age of 55.