Loneliness can increase the risk of death

We often associate the solitude to the negative feelings produced by the insulation.

However, we now know that it can also have very negative material repercussions. Indeed, the feeling of prolonged loneliness may increase the risk of death by 26%, a percentage which is raised to 32% in cases where social isolation is real. This is data published by psychologists at Brigham Young University in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Loneliness may increase risk of death, study finds

The study conducted by these researchers is a meta-analysis of different research in the field of social psychology which aims to find relationships between loneliness (real and perceived) and patterns of mortality. What they found was what appears to be a correlation between social isolation and the marked risk of death it may have. large-scale repercussions.

In addition, the results of the meta-analysis speak not only of an increased risk of death in people who, due to their habits, have little contact with others (i.e. present cases of true social isolation) but also even among people who, regardless of the number of real interactions with others and the time spent with them, feel alone. Chronic loneliness, whether real or subjective, carries certain dangers.

This is why tackling this problem is more complicated than expected, as you not only have to intervene on the number of real interactions with others, but also on the quality of these relationships.

Both the subjective factor and the goal associated with loneliness can affect our health in several ways: producing episodes of stress, negatively affecting the functioning of the immune system, producing blood pressure states that promote the onset of inflammation and they lead to dynamics, etc. All of these factors interact with each other and have repercussions, which is why, although they should not lead to fatal accidents, they affect the health of the body, causing it to age prematurely and causing complications of all kinds.

Virtually all of the benefits associated with living a life full of satisfying relationships can be used to gain insight into the negative aspects of lack of physical and emotional contact with others.

Loneliness: a problem that is spreading in the Western world

These conclusions are all the more worrying if we consider that in Western countries more and more people are living alone or without close ties to a community. Additionally, new forms of communication via digital media do not lead to the emergence of sustained face-to-face relationships, and there are even new forms of work that require no more company than a laptop and a beverage.

In addition, a large part of the population at risk of social isolation is precisely those in a more delicate state of health: old people. These people are in a place where the family lives far away, has lost contact with co-workers, and there is hardly any social activity intended for them.

Providing these elderly people (and ourselves) with contexts in which to develop diverse social bonds can be one of the keys to improving people’s health on a large scale and preventing certain fatal accidents. In addition, the result would be the construction of a very cohesive society, with all the advantages that this entails.

Bibliographical references:

  • Holdt-Lunstad, J., Smith, TB, Baker, M., Harris, T. & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytical review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10 (2), available at http://pps.sagepub.com/content/10/2/227.full.pdf

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