As humans, we have a need for togetherness and cooperation. Now, this didn’t just happen by accident. It’s something that has evolved over a long, long time. Our ancestors realised that by sticking together and helping each other, they had a better chance of surviving and passing their genes on to the next generation. Guess what? It still persists! So, even today, we still have this strong instinct to be with other people. It helps us feel safer, happier, and more supported. That’s why we enjoy spending time with friends, family, and other communities. But sometimes even a large crowd can’t help you feel connected. You might start to feel sad and left out, even though you’re surrounded by people. This feeling of being alone and disconnected is what we call loneliness.
Interestingly, a large new study says that if you’re lonely or socially isolated, you might have a higher risk of early death. Wondering how? Let’s explore this study!
How Can Loneliness Lead To Health Risks?
A recent study published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour looked at information from 90 different studies involving over 2 million adults. The researchers analyzed the connection between loneliness, social isolation, and early death. They followed the study participants for different periods, ranging from six months to 25 years.
Why is this news for us? Well, previous studies have explored the relationship between social isolation, loneliness, and the risk of premature death, but the findings have sometimes been conflicting or uncertain. This might be because earlier research has often concentrated on particular groups or limited geographical areas.
Individuals who faced social isolation had a 32% greater chance of experiencing premature death from any cause when compared to those who were not socially isolated. Furthermore, participants who expressed feelings of loneliness had a 14% higher likelihood of early death compared to those who did not feel lonely.
Cause of the Study
The study authors examined the relationship between loneliness, social isolation, and death among individuals with cardiovascular disease or breast or colorectal cancer. Previous research has indicated that the connection between social support and health can be complex, with potential bi-directional influences.
The study suggests that poor health may lead to a loss of social support over time, while patients with health conditions often require more social support. People’s lifestyle choices may also contribute to early death from cardiovascular disease or any other cause. People who feel socially isolated or lonely tend to engage in unhealthy habits such as smoking, alcohol use, poor diet, and limited exercise.
Moreover, the study suggests that having a small social network or minimal contact with the outside world may reduce access to necessary medical care, as there may be no one to check on their well-being.
What Does This Study Leave Us With?
People increasingly embrace solitary lifestyles, often without seeing any inherent risks or negative consequences, especially when it is a matter of personal choice. The prevailing notion is that isolation is acceptable, or even beneficial, as long as one does not experience feelings of loneliness.
However, it is important that we recognize the consequences that being alone carries on its own. It is important to develop public health initiatives that address the issues of loneliness and social isolation and focus on enhancing awareness and understanding among the general population.