Loneliness was linked to early mortality in a recent study conducted by psychologists at Utah’s Brigham Young University. Although loneliness is most often associated with mental health, the researchers found feelings of isolation can have a negative impact on physical health as well.
To conduct their meta-analysis, the scientists reviewed the results of 70 prior studies. After eliminating other variables, including gender, pre-existing health issues, and socioeconomic status, the researchers concluded loneliness is a factor in early mortality.
As reported by US News, loneliness among the elderly is a common concern. A 2013 meta-analysis, conducted by University College London, suggests loneliness has a profound impact on senior citizen mortality. Lead researcher Andrew Steptoe discusses the results of the study.
“Social contact is a fundamental aspect of human existence. The scientific evidence is that being socially isolated is probably bad for your health, and may lead to the development of serious illness and a reduced life span.”
However, the Brigham Young University study focused on participants under the age of 65. The researchers concluded that loneliness can be linked to early mortality. They also suggest that the risk from loneliness may be “greater than that from obesity.”
Studies found that people who spend a lot of time on the internet are more likely to be depressed, lonely and mentally unstable.
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As reported by Medical News Today, the researchers are concerned that the issue could become an epidemic. Tim Smith, who co-authored the BYU meta-analysis, said the number of people who feel lonely is likely to increase.
“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. With loneliness on the rise, we are predicting a possible loneliness epidemic in the future.”
The researchers hope the information will help medical professionals identify risk factors and prevent unnecessary illness. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to identify those who are feeling lonely.
Lost & lonely in this cruel world
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Lead researcher Andrew Steptoe explained that loneliness is not always linked to isolation. Isolation is far more obvious, as the person spends a lot of time alone. However, feelings of loneliness are not exclusive to those living in isolation.
Dr. Bryan Bruno said he often warns his patients, and their families, about the dangers of loneliness and isolation. He suggests community involvement, spending time with family, and volunteer work, as ways to prevent feeling lonely.
Although loneliness has been linked to early mortality, the researchers concluded that subjects who were not isolated, and did not feel lonely, were likely to live longer and healthier lives.
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