A new study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science is shedding new light on loneliness and isolation. The study was conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University and found some alarming trends when it comes to loneliness and isolation. In short, researchers found that “Actual and perceived social isolation are both associated with increased risk for early mortality”. That means a life cut short by being lonely… and that is a shame.
Several lifestyle and environmental factors are risk factors for early mortality, including smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and air pollution. However, in the scientific literature, much less attention has been given to social factors dem- onstrated to have equivalent or greater influence on mortality risk (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton, 2010).
Loneliness and Isolation Study
The study was a meta-analysis (a study of many studies) involving millions of data-points. Researchers concluded that there is substantial evidence that indicates people lacking social connections “are at risk for premature mortality”. The risk associated with social isolation and loneliness are comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality, like obesity.
The data in this meta-analysis should make researchers call into question the assumption that social isolation among older adults places them at greater risk compared with social isolation among younger adults. Using the aggregate data, we found the opposite to be the case. Middle-age adults were at greater risk of mortality when lonely or living alone than when older adults experienced those same circumstances. – Julianne Holt-Lunstad et al
In an surprising twist, there was greater risk for those individuals 65 and under vs their older counterparts. I would have thought just the opposite, but the risk is there nonetheless. I think it further confirms the need for awareness and caring for others, and the importance of connectivity to family and friends. Technology helps us stay connected, as do social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In my mind, nothing can take the place of personal visit to family or a phone call that reaches out and touches someone you care about.