An alarming new report indicates that loneliness and social isolation could kill you, and much sooner than you thought possible.
A new study has found that people who live lonely and socially isolated are more likely to die early, even earlier than obese people. The study, based on two meta-analyses, first look at one study involving 3 million participants and found that greater social connection results in a 50 percent reduced risk of an untimely death, while the second study that was examined involved 3.4 million individuals and also found that loneliness had a big effect on premature death.
The researchers from Brigham Young University believe that being connected to others socially is fundamental to human health. About 42.6 million adults older than 45 in the United States are believed to suffer from loneliness, making this a significant public health issue.
And with U.S. census data showing that more than 25 percent of the population lives by themselves, and more than half of all people unmarried with marriage rates declining, the problem threatens to get worse.
“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,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University. “Yet an increasing portion of the U.S. population now experiences isolation regularly.”