Study says feeling this way raised risk of early death by 26 percent
WebMD News from HealthDay
By Alan Mozes
TUESDAY, March 17, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Loneliness has long been associated with poor mental health, including depression. But a new study suggests social isolation may harm physical health, too, and even hasten death.
The findings are based on a review of data from dozens of studies involving more than 3 million people.
"People don't commonly think of social factors when they think of health," said study co-author Timothy B. Smith, a professor in the department of psychology at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. "We think of things like exercise, blood pressure and taking cholesterol medication. But it turns out that social isolation is actually more predictive of death than any of those three things."
Smith and his colleagues published their findings this month in Perspectives on Psychological Science.
One expert noted that loneliness is an emotional state, first and foremost.
"Loneliness is about the perception of being lonely, not the act of being alone," said Lisa Jaremka, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Delaware in Newark. "So, all of the research in this area is about people who feel lonely, regardless of their actual social network."
"There are people who are regularly in contact with other people who are really lonely, and there are also people who don't physically see other people very often, but don't feel lonely at all," Jaremka said.
The new research focused on 70 studies completed between 1980 and 2014, all of which explored how loneliness, social isolation and/or living alone affects longevity. Study participants averaged 66 years of age, and about a third struggled with some type of chronic illness.
While the data review couldn't prove cause and effect, it did find a strong association between loneliness and the risk for dying sooner rather than later.
Specifically, Smith's team calculated that social isolation -- having few or no social contacts or activities -- upped the risk for dying sooner by 29 percent.
The feeling of being lonely -- whether or not a person did have social contacts -- was also linked to a 26 percent higher risk for an earlier death.
source : Could Loneliness Shorten a Life?