Research Show Loneliness a Bigger Killer Than Obesity

Posted on August 11, 2017

Two meta-analyses by Julianna Holt-Lunstad, a professor of Psychology at Brigham Young University (BYU), and colleagues have found that premature death risk can increase by up to 50 percent with loneliness and social isolation.

There are differences between loneliness and social isolation, which is often mistakenly used interchangeably. Loneliness is a feeling of emotional disconnection from others while social isolation is having limited contact with others. A person can be lonely even in a large group of people. Around 72 percent of adults, in a poll of over 2000 adults in the United States, reported feeling lonely at least once in their lives. Of these, 31 percent felt lonely at least once a week.

The first meta-analysis consisted of over 300 000 adults across 148 studies. The second included 3.4 million adults in 70 studies. The first meta-analysis found a 50 percent lower risk of premature death for adults who interacted and connected more with others, compared to adults who experienced social isolation. The second meta-analysis found that the factors of loneliness, social isolation and living alone increased the risk of premature death. This premature death risk was equal to or greater than the risk for obesity and other major health problems.

With the aging population increasing around the world, many countries are now facing what Prof. Holt-Lunstad terms a ‘loneliness epidemic’. One solution she proposes for this epidemic is having more resources to tackle loneliness in individuals and society at large. She suggests putting more focus on social skills training in schools and including social connectedness in physical health screenings. Older adults should also prepare for social connections after retirement, instead of just preparing financially, as many social connections of adults are created in the workplace.

Category(s):Aging & Geriatric Issues

Source material from Medical News Today

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