A person feeling lonely has as much ability to predict early death as does being overweight, researchers found.
Scientists predict the occurrence of a loneliness “epidemic” in the future, with more people living alone. Researchers want that people should start reconsider their social relationships seriously.
Loneliness or social isolation take different forms, scientists said. While a person is surrounde by people, that person may still feel alone. Other people isolate themselves because they prefer to be alone.
Regardless of the perspective, the impact on lifespan is the same, researchers discovered.
“The effect is comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, of Brigham Young University, Utah, the lead study author. “We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously.”
The same team found an elevated risk of death from loneliness is the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and being an alcoholic, but added there are are many things that help to subdue the effects of loneliness.
The evolution of the internet, people can keep in contact over distances that they couldn’t before. However, the superficiality of some online experiences may miss emotional context and depth.
Another study in 2013 from the same institution found that couples who text each other too much are less happy with their relationships, and it is better to have important conversations face to face.
The authors of that study note that saying something sweet or kind in a text is universally beneficial.
The study is published in Perspectives on Psychological Science.