Researchers are increasingly recognizing loneliness as a major health problem. A recent study, for example, found that loneliness has more than doubled among older people since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Past research has also shown older people who experience loneliness have a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Lonely people get sick more often, and take longer to get over infections. Loneliness also increases blood pressure and levels of stress hormones. Socially isolated people are more likely to be depressed, suffer from memory loss, and use alcohol and drugs. Likewise, evidence suggests that loneliness contributes to aging in a number of ways, and leads to reduced longevity. In fact, the health risks of loneliness areequivalent to those related to obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day.


Researchers who have pored through data, including vast medical records and hundreds of in-person interviews and questionnaires, found a strong correlation between men’s flourishing lives and their relationships with family, friends, and community. Several studies found that people’s level of satisfaction with their relationships at age 50 was a better predictor of physical health than their cholesterol levels were.

The researchers also found that marital satisfaction has a protective effect on people’s mental health. Part of a study found that people who had happy marriages in their 80s reported that their moods didn’t suffer even on the days when they had more physical pain. Those who had unhappy marriages felt both more emotional and physical pain.

Those who kept warm relationships got to live longer and happier, said Waldinger, and the loners often died earlier. “Loneliness kills,” he said. “It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” Source: Harvard Gazette

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17 Dec 2020 - importance: 6