Could Loneliness Kill You? New Study Suggests So

man sitting by lakeHealth workers frequently endeavor to help their patients tackle lifestyle concerns, such as smoking or a poor diet, that can lead to an early death. But a new study from Brigham Young University suggests that doctors might also want to ask about their patients’ relationships. That study found that, regardless of age, social isolation is a significant predictor of death.

Want to Live Longer? Make More Friends

To explore the effects of loneliness, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 70 studies dating from 1980 to 2014, allowing them to look at more than three million participants. After controlling for age, gender, socioeconomic background, health status, and similar factors that could affect longevity, researchers evaluated the effects of social isolation.

They found that people who reported feelings of isolation were more likely to die prematurely, while those who had a rich network of connections reported better health. So severe were the risks of loneliness, in fact, that loneliness predicted early death more than even obesity.

More than 75% of the data came from people over the age of 60, with 90% coming from people over 50. Thus, researchers can’t be sure if their results are equally relevant for younger people. An earlier study found that loneliness increases the risk of death among seniors by 14%.

In a world dominated by social media, it might seem like people are increasingly connected, but loneliness research shows just the opposite. A 2008 study found that 40% of people over the age of 45 report chronic loneliness. The figure was just 20% in the 1980s, suggesting loneliness is on the rise. Seventeen percent of older Americans are in contact with loved ones once a week or less, with 11% reporting being in contact less than once a month.

References:

  1. Aebischer, J. (2008). Loneliness among older adults. Home Healthcare Nurse: The Journal for the Home Care and Hospice Professional, 26(9), 521-524. doi:10.1097/01.NHH.0000338510.54828.89
  2. Loneliness and social isolation linked to early mortality. (2015, March 16). Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/290934.php
  3. Loneliness increases risk of premature death in seniors. (2014, February 17). Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/272705.php
  4. Loneliness research. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/loneliness-research/

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  • Letha

    Letha

    March 18th, 2015 at 11:04 AM

    This is so sad, to think about people who go through their lives alone and with no one to share it with.

  • Levi

    Levi

    March 18th, 2015 at 2:57 PM

    Of course it can. There are numerous studies that suggest we would all live a healthier and longer life with friends and family around that we are close to.

  • Brittany

    Brittany

    March 18th, 2015 at 7:51 PM

    Wow, surrounding yourself with family and friends is very important. I would say since the introduction of social media, decreases the chances of you having a real interaction with your friends, family and acquaintances. It’s important to figure out that balance.

  • robert

    robert

    March 19th, 2015 at 3:50 AM

    Social media is the devil. It keeps you from having to have true interaction with other people and recent evidence shows that being on there too much can actually cause you to be even more depressed!

  • Louie

    Louie

    March 20th, 2015 at 7:45 AM

    It’s an age thing
    old people are never as happy as younger people

  • Josephone

    Josephone

    March 23rd, 2015 at 11:17 AM

    So if this is now more dangerous that being obese or overweight, then what do we do? It is easy to make the decision to stop smoking or over eating for example., but to become an extrovert just because being shy isn’t cutting it health wise? That might be a little harder to do!

  • Lonely Tony

    Lonely Tony

    April 19th, 2015 at 1:09 PM

    Being in that state, I can see why statistics would reveal shorter life span. Suicide for one. I have no social phobia so to speak, and actually enjoy social interaction. I’m an alcoholic/diabetic 56 year old Realtor (last 12 years) at wits end working every waking hour, only to be disappointed in the end. Finances are a mess. Still find $$$ for beer. Quit many times but come back during the holidays to hide out.

    I’m afraid to go anywhere in fear of the law. A little beer on your breath could cause major trouble. I have great references, and people like my demeanor. Great at smiling and conversation, but have isolated myself regarding any social life due to beer. I am not a drunk, and fortunately never had any legal problems yet regarding. In fact, I can’t drink enough beer to get drunk. It just eases the anxiety, though I know it can be a cause as well. I am a faithful Catholic, so in spite of my intense mental anguish I make it day to day.
    I Was a top world touring musician/ people person for 13 years in younger days. Married 13 years, only to find out my ex was living two lives with another man while I was on the road. Loved her and forgave her, only to find meds for abortion a couple years later. Had to run away. Haven’t been with another since. Loved her dearly, and she had a baby 6 mos. after my divorce. Wanted a family. Loneliness is a terrible way to live.

    I was adopted at a very young age by a very loving family. Lost dad @ 10 years old, and had to work ever since. Graduated Indiana University with academic honors.

    I do not have the $$ for help, and suffer day to day through faith alone. I got injured 10 years ago that led to BK. Pulled myself back out. I was a multi million dollar producer in Real Estate until the bubble burst. Actually thought I’d make it through for a while until my job hit the fan. Sorry to ramble. This is the first time I have ever posted on any blogs. Just want to say I’ll still keep at it and would sincerely appreciate your prayers. T

  • Hannah

    Hannah

    October 17th, 2015 at 1:12 PM

    I’ll pray for you Tony. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot and for that I’m sorry. I’ve isolated myself a lot lately as well (about the past year and a half). I know how to make friends and keep up conversation but lack the will to do so. The people that I know I could become close with seem so much different from myself and it’s hard to find another relatable human being. I’ve been through therapy already but never solved my problem with self isolation. I hope that things are better for you.

  • Katelyn

    Katelyn

    October 20th, 2015 at 10:01 AM

    I know THE feeling of being lonely … And depression and battle with agoraphobia .. So I can’t imagine living much longer like this .. It’s hell

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