Loneliness and social isolation linked to early mortality

There are a lot of lifestyle and health factors – smoking, obesity, air pollution – that are acknowledged to be the risk factors for early mortality. It is suggested that social connections should be among this list, according to a study finding out the connection between social isolation, loneliness and early mortality at all ages.

The psychologists from Brigham Young University in Provo, UT found that social isolation and loneliness tend to predict premature death among people who age less than 65 years old, though the older individuals might be easily prone to be lonely and having a much higher risk of mortality in general.

Loneliness and social isolation linked to early mortality
Loneliness and social isolation linked to early mortality

The lead author, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, says, “The effect of this issue is comparable to obesity condition, something that public health takes seriously. We need to begin taking our social relationships much more seriously. [Read: little known facts about depression and suicide]

It is also demonstrated that social connections could have such a positive influence on the physical health and psychological as well as emotional health.

Despite these two terms sound rather similar, social isolation and loneliness might differ from each other in appearance. A person who is surrounded by many people could still feel lonely whilst some individuals prefer to be alone and love isolation from other people.

Regardless of the differences, nevertheless, the study discovered that the impacts on premature mortality tended to be the same for both social isolation and loneliness. [Read: facts about self harm]

Researchers predict the so-called “loneliness epidemic” in the future

It is predicted that a “loneliness epidemic” will happen in the near future by researchers. Those researchers analyzed data from about 70 studies which were conducted from 1980 to 2014 with about 3 million attendants. The date contained the information in terms of social isolation, loneliness, and living alone.

After considering the main variables like gender, age, socioeconomic status and pre-existing health problems, researchers discovered that social isolation was connected to an enhanced risk of premature death. In addition, the presence of different social relationships was found to affect positively on overall health.

Nonetheless, this study utilized the data from a small range of ages, mainly coming from older adults. Actually, less than 1/4 of the studies analyzed got involved with those at 59 or little younger, and just 9% of the participants of involved studies were younger than 50.

It is also discovered that the impacts on physical well-being resulted by isolation and loneliness might be comparable to the impacts resulted by obesity, yet slightly higher.

Thanks to the advances in technology along with the evolution of the Internet, it might seem as if people are getting closer together than ever before. Nevertheless, the increasing number of people feeling lonely shows more clearly recently. [Read: how to overcome loneliness quickly]

“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.”, says co-author Tim Smith.

Last year, it was found that extreme loneliness could increase the risk of premature death by about 14% in an older person.