There are a number of health epidemics that have been making headlines over the last few years, from the surge of opiate use here in the USA, to the resurgence in conditions like measles, largely attributed to the anti-vaccine movement.
One social epidemic that often goes under the radar is loneliness. In our digital age, where we seemingly have less and less motivation to leave the house and go talk to people, loneliness is very commonplace, and can be extremely damaging.
Most everybody wants to live long, healthy life. If we want to achieve this, there are a number of different factors, such as diet, weight, and exercise. However, one factor that is a lot more important than most think is regular social interaction. It has a huge positive effect and our physical and mental health.
This is particularly true as we move into old age, as a number of studies have asserted.
One study, conducted back in 2012, watched over 1,600 adults with an average age of 71, and compared their social interactions with their ongoing life span. The researchers found that 23% of the participants who reported loneliness died within six years. Meanwhile, only 14% of those with companionship died during the same time period.
The researchers came to the conclusion that “loneliness is a significant factor in the decline of quality of life in older adults.”
For lonely people, the increased risks of psychological issues such as depression and cognitive impairment, as well as other physical health problems, such as coronary heart disease, are all factors that may lead to an earlier death.
This isn’t the only study that seems to suggest that loneliness plays a factor in serious health problems. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, an associate professor of psychology at Brigham Young University in Utah, has conducted similar studies. She said:
“Our social relationships are important not only to our quality of life, but also our longevity. Throughout human history, we have relied on others for survival, such as protection and food, and despite modern advancements that may (help with) certain aspects of survival so that we can live more independently, it appears that our relationships nonetheless still impact odds of survival.”