Loneliness is a serious issue in the world today and the number of those being affected is rapidly increasing. According to the APA, it has become even more of a public health hazard that obesity and many are shocked.
According to findings from back in 2017 carried out by the AARP, there are over forty million adults over the age of 45 in the US suffering from what has been deemed as chronic loneliness. This suggests that Americans as a whole are becoming much less socially connected than they were in the past. Interactions are important for our existence in general and lacking them can cause more risks of death than even that posed by obesity as noted above.
Chronic loneliness is a problem that remains very unspoken about and without much resolution. Isolation for those who might not be aware can create lots of problems for those facing it. Dr. Julianne Holt-Lundstad from Brigham Young University actually said that “being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need, crucial to both well-being and survival.” She went on to note that even in extreme examples it has been shown that infants who lack custodial care when it comes to human connection fail to thrive and often die.
While we hear time and time again how dangerous smoking, drinking, and other things of the sort can be many of us do not stop to think about how loneliness can affect those around us or ourselves. This is one area in which we can work to help others. Sure, we cannot stop someone from drinking (in most cases) but we can visit a grandparent who doesn’t get to see many people. By reaching out we can help drop the percentage of risk of early mortality in those we care for by at least fifty percent.
To illustrate the influence of social isolation and loneliness on the risk for premature mortality, Holt-Lunstad presented data from two meta-analyses. The first involved 148 studies, representing more 300,000 participants and found that greater social connection is associated with a 50 percent reduced risk of early death. The second study, involving 70 studies representing more than 3.4 million individuals primarily from North America but also from Europe, Asia, and Australia, examined the role that social isolation, loneliness or living alone might have on mortality. Researchers found that all three had a significant and equal effect on the risk of premature death, one that was equal to or exceeded the effect of other well-accepted risk factors such as obesity.
“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase the risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” said Holt-Lunstad. “With an increasingly 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.”
Are you lonely or do you know someone who might be? Perhaps there is more you can do that you are not considering just yet. To learn more about this growing issue please feel free to check out the video below.