Many people around the world suffer from loneliness daily. A study of this social problem suggests that it is even deadlier than obesity. The results have confirmed that chronic loneliness and social isolation should be considered a major public health hazard that we need to take steps to prevent.
Recently, researchers reviewed 218 studies that involved almost 400 million people, and they found that people who were lonely had a 50% increased risk of dying early than people who have an active social life. The results are startling when you compare it to the fact that obesity only raises the chance of early death by 30%, which proves that loneliness is deadlier than obesity.
This study was shared at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Brigham Young University said: “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 U.S. population now experiences isolation regularly.”
For many people, the workplace is their primary source of social interaction, and they should make sure to prepare socially for retirement as well as financially. Finding new ways to enjoy the companionship of others is crucial to one’s well-being and could be as easy as joining a book club or volunteering in one’s community. Any type of group activity where people can interact with one another would be beneficial.
The Campaign To End Loneliness says that “17% of older people are in contact with family, friends, and neighbors less than once a week and 11% are in contact less than once a month.” Sadly, that means many older people have little to no social life at all.
Their research goes on to say that “lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity. Loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%.”
A study was done by the University of York that looked at the effects of loneliness found that lonely people have a 30% higher risk of heart disease. It goes on to note that heart disease and strokes are two of the highest causes of death in Britain.
The Mental Health Foundation studied people who were 18 to 34 years old that dealt with loneliness and discovered that they suffered even more compared to those who were 55 years or older. The studies have also shown that between 20 to 80 percent of adolescents suffer from loneliness. This goes to show that it isn’t only the elderly who experience this problem.
Harvard University found that lonely people without friends suffered from increased levels of a protein that helps in blood-clotting which causes strokes and heart attacks.
Loneliness and social isolation can increase the chance of early death, so we need to develop a strategy to help solve this crisis. Many say that we should start with kids, it’s essential for them to learn socially as well as intellectually when they are in school. It would also be beneficial for pediatric doctors to include social screening on kids when they perform their yearly check-ups.
All this research proves that even though we are more “connected than ever” since we have social media to keep us in touch, that it still doesn’t have quite the same effect as one on one interaction.
I’m willing to bet that most of our readers have suffered from loneliness at some point in their lives. It would do us all some good to pay attention to those we are around and extend friendship to those who might need it.
After all, one can never have too many friends, and for those who suffer from loneliness and social isolation, you might just save their lives.
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About the Author: Bethany Vincent is a writer from La Grange Kentucky who has loved playing with words since she first learned to speak. She lives with her teenage son and adopted dog daughter in a cute, yellow house with a picket fence. During college at the University of Louisville, she could be found at the writing center most of the time, and her main areas of focus were literature, creative writing, and visual arts. Bethany has contributed articles and created content for many websites and blogs during her writing career. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, juggle-dancing, yoga, photography, cooking and singing along with her favorite songs while in the car driving. In the future, she plans to finish writing her first book and hopes to travel to all the beautiful places that she’s read about.