Loneliness and social isolation are on the verge of becoming epidemics. They are health issues that can, according to a new study, contribute to early mortality. Loneliness and social isolation are risk factors for people of all ages and backgrounds and these factors have been rounded up with the likes of other life-shortening contributors such as obesity, smoking and air pollution.
The study, published by psychologists at Brigham Young University, relates that the prescription is simple: spend more time with people. It’s not just healthy eating habits and regular exercise that can prolong life. Social relations and interactions are just as important.
In an individualistic and technologically advanced society, the issues of loneliness and social isolation may not seem need for worry. However, as quoted in Medical News Today, March 16, Julianne Holt-Lunstad — lead author of the BYU study — said, “We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously.” As seriously, perhaps, as diabetes or high cholesterol.
According to the Medical News Today article, “Previous research has demonstrated that social connections can have a positive influence on physical well-being as well as psychological and emotional well-being.” However, it hasn’t been until now that researchers have focused a study or meta-analysis on how social isolation and loneliness affect mortality.
The Cubic Lane mentioned another study from 2013 that showed similar results. The research from the study concluded that loneliness and social isolation were so dangerous that these factors could literally wear people down, contributing to weakened immune systems.
It’s not just through social media networks that people should seek social interactions. Despite how those networks connect many people in ways that they wouldn’t have previously been available, statistics show that across the U.S. people are living alone at higher rates than they have in the last 100 years, just as they are interacting online for longer portions of their days. “Not only are we at the highest recorded rate of living alone across the entire century, but we’re at the highest recorded rates ever on the planet,” relates Tim Smith, one of the co-writers of the study. “With loneliness on the rise, we are predicting a possible loneliness epidemic in the future.” And that’s so strange, since the world is so incredibly peopled. Lesson? Though it’s fine and well to secure down time in a world full of everything to do, steer clear of social isolation and spending too much time alone. Your life could depend on it.