Anyone who has ever been a heartbroken and angsty teenager knows it to be true: you can feel so lonely you could just drop dead. Though teenagers are mostly being melodramatic, in reality, lonesomeness is not just painfully sad, it can also be deadly. Seriously.
New research revealed at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science suggests that loneliness is a major factor for premature death. According to University of Chicago Professor John Cacioppo via UChicagoNews, “feelings of extreme isolation can increase the chance of dying prematurely by a whopping 14 percent.” That’s a lot––nearly double the risk of premature expiration from obesity.
Cacioppo studied the decline of both physical and mental health in adults over fifty-five-years-old. His research indicates that feeling lonely can affect health in a number of ways, like the following:
- disturbs sleep
- increases blood pressure
- raises stress hormone cortisol
- lowers overall subjective well-being
Anyone who has ever felt unwillingly solitary knows that at least the first and last on that list are more than true. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid feeling lonely, even if you’re surrounded by people all the time. Lonesomeness is not necessarily about being alone, but feeling alone. How can anyone avoid feeling completely and totally isolated at least once in awhile?
The issue at hand is not concerning newly broken hearts and loneliness due to missing out on cool instagrammed parties, but chronic, bone deep, persistent feelings of extreme isolation often found in older people who have retired and moved away from or lost their support network.
If you want to avoid death by loneliness or help prevent someone you love from meeting a similar fate, reach out to others. Cacioppo stresses that “What’s really important is companionship and mutual assistance and protection. The stresses and challenges of life are more easily endured if we can share them with someone in whom we can confide and trust.”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go weep thinking about people feeling alone.
via Huffington Post//Image via Beetlejuice (1988)