Loneliness Can Lead to Shorter Life


A recent study done by researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah shows that loneliness and isolation can be just as harmful to your health as obesity. The researchers looked at 35 years of studies on how social isolation, living alone, and loneliness effect your lifespan and the results did not look good. They had looked at the data from over three million participants and found that loneliness and isolation can increase your chances of a premature death by up to 32 percent. The researcher used the UCLA loneliness scale, where people rated themselves using 20 different measures. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, the lead author in the study, said in a statement, “We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously. The effect of this is comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously.”

The lack of social connections can be difficult for anybody, especially if it is not by choice. These findings though, give proof to what researchers have thought to be true for years. It is not the first time loneliness has been linked to health risks. A study done at The University of Chicago found that loneliness and isolation can cause an increase in the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in people. Increased levels of cortisol in someone, can lead to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

With more and more people living alone, researchers at Brigham Young University have predicted an upcoming loneliness epidemic. More people now are living in single person households than ever in the country’s history. In 1970 the percentage of people living in a single person household was 17 percent, now that number is up to 27 percent, according to the Census Bureau. This could be due to an increase in home employment, binge watching Netflix, or just social media addiction.

The link between loneliness and a shorter lifespan has not been linked to any specific geographic location or sex. It was shown that people under the age of 65 were particularly more vulnerable to the negative health risks of loneliness. It did not seem to make any difference if the isolation was the persons choice or not, the effects were still the same. The study suggests that when people break their isolation and loneliness with a friend, or any social interaction, they could receive the benefits of greater health. The researchers compared the health risks of long time loneliness and isolation to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and being an alcoholic, but as most people know being lonely and being an alcoholic are not mutually exclusive.

The researches suggest that their could be a serious loneliness epidemic coming in the future. With an increased amount of people living solitary lives, the risk of people becoming lonelier in the future is not a farfetched idea. The Brigham Young University researchers hope that their findings will prompt some change, especially in regards to geriatric isolation. The government of the United Kingdom has already made decisions to change its investing to help ease loneliness in geriatrics. With the researchers finding that loneliness can lead to a shorter life, maybe people will take the steps necessary to keep themselves out of isolation.

By James Dixson


Huffington Post

Deseret News


Photo by: Gwenael Piaser – Flickr License

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