For many, being single through adulthood is a heartbreaking experience. Granted, if you have a close family and group of friends, you’re never truly alone. However, your family and friends cannot be by your side at all hours of the day. But there are those who choose to live the single life because it gives them the time and space to create and live their own life without any immediate restrictions. On the contrary, though, there are people who want to get married and have a family, which makes being single that much harder. Loneliness is becoming a public hazard and researchers have even gone as far as to suggest that being single can kill you faster than obesity, according to a study reported by the New York Post.
The study had researchers from the US examine 218 studies that touched base on the health effects of loneliness and isolation. The Huffington Post reports that they found that lonely individuals raised a person’s risk of death by 50%, compared to obesity, which was only 30%.
Lead author and professor of Psychology at Brigham Young University, Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, told the New York Post: “Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need, crucial to both well-being and survival.” Dr. Holt-Lunstad also mentioned that: “Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment. Yet an increasing portion of the US population now experiences isolation regularly.” Granted, there needs to be more research in order for this claim to be 100% accurate, but the findings are intriguing and should raise questions.
According to the Huffington Post’s report, the UK is the loneliness capital of Europe. The Campaign to End Loneliness states that the UK’s loneliness epidemic costs somewhere in the range of $26 million per year which helps with the health outcomes and sick days that come with loneliness and mental health. In addition, according to a 2017 Census, loneliness could become a major epidemic for Canadians as well, as more Canadians are living alone, with no parents or children.
Dr. Dhruv Khullar, a physician and researcher at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, told theNew York Times that there is significant evidence that socially isolated individuals can experience disrupted sleep, abnormal immune responses, and accelerated cognitive decline. In addition, data collected from the Harvard Aging Brain Study of 79 cognitively normal adults found that loneliness could also be a preclinical sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Nancy J. Donovan, a geriatric psychiatrist and researcher in neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, asked each participant three questions on loneliness and assessed their answers along with the amount of amyloid in their brains.
When Dr. Donovan and her colleagues examined their findings further, they found that depression, even mild depression, had a larger effect than loneliness on the risk of cognitive decline. She told the New York Times: “There is now strong evidence relating greater depressive symptoms to increased progression from normal cognition to mild cognitive impairment and from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.”
Loneliness, isolation, and depression are quickly becoming a global epidemic and awareness are needed more than ever. Bell’s Let’s Talk Day is a perfect example of how everyone can come together and prove that your words matter. The worst thing you can do for someone who is lonely, isolated or depressed is nothing. One person can make a difference, but together, we can change the world.