It might feel good to spend time alone, or it may not. What is clear is that long periods of social isolation is bad for one’s health, and is even more likely to kill them than obesity.
According to a new review of 218 studies that looked into the effects of loneliness and social isolation, those with bad social connections are 50 percent more likely to die prematurely than those with good social connections. Obesity, on the other hand, increases a person’s risk of death by just 30 percent
Said Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, lead author and professor at Brigham Young University: “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,” she continued. “Yet an increasing portion of the US population now experiences isolation regularly.”
As a result of these findings, experts are warning that loneliness should be considered a public health risk. They add that we, as a society, are experiencing a “loneliness” epidemic.”
This isn’t the first data suggesting social isolation can adversely affect one’s health. A survey by Granset, the over-50s social networking site, concluded that nearly 75 percent of the elderly in the UK are lonely. Furthermore, most have never spoken to someone about their feelings.
Said Holt-Lunstad: “There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators.”
“With an increasing aging population, the effect on public health is only anticipated to increase,” added Holt-Lunstad. “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.”
The professor urges greater priority to be placed on research and developing resources to tackle loneliness. For example, children should be taught social skills to combat loneliness or voice their emotions in schools.
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Source: The New York Post
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