A new study suggests that loneliness could become an even bigger public health threat than obesity.
According to an AARP’s Loneliness Study, presented at the 2017 annual convention of the American Psychological Association, people have felt increasingly lonely and isolated in recent years. The physical and psychological ramifications could prove more detrimental than the effects of obesity.
“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University and lead author of the study, in a press release.
The study, consisting of two meta-analyses of previous data covering 218 studies, discovered that social isolation, including living alone, caused the risk of premature death to surge. Shockingly, the findings indicated a greater impact on dying early than obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 40 percent of adults age 20 and over are obese. While, children age 12-19 pose the greatest risk of obesity, at just over 20 percent.
“Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need — crucial to both well-being and survival. 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,” said Holt-Lunstad. “Yet an increasing portion of the U.S. population now experiences isolation regularly.”