Studies Show Loneliness Could be a Greater Health Threat Than Obesity

We all get lonely every once in a while—it’s a normal human emotion. But when every once in a while turns into all the time, this could be detrimental to your health and even increase your risk of mortality.  Researchers presented two analyses of 218 studies at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention, where they concluded that loneliness could pose a threat to public health. 

The first analysis covered 148 studies, which involved 300,000 participants, and discovered that there was a 50 percent decrease in risk of early death in those who experience more social interaction. The second analysis reviewed 70 studies that observed the effect of loneliness, social isolation and living alone on the mortality risk of 3.4 million people. The researchers concluded that all three conditions had an even greater impact on early mortality than obesity.

Lead author of the study and Professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, Julianne Holt-Lunstad Ph.D., commented, "Indeed, many nations around the world now suggest we are facing a 'loneliness epidemic.' The challenge we face now is what can be done about it."

If you find yourself feeling lonely more than ‘every once in a while,’ here are 4 tips to help relieve that emotion:

Check in With Your Friends & Family

When is the last time you called your college friends, or your extended family? Reach out to these people to catch up and see what’s going on in their lives. These interactions could rekindle some old friendships and reduce your feeling of loneliness.

Cut Back on the Digital World

Many of us bury our heads into technology so much that it has become an addiction. Human interaction is necessary for happiness and health, so it’s helpful to turn off the social apps, put down the phone, and start interacting with people face-to-face, in the real world.

Avoid Bailing on Plans

Many of us have experienced a night where we previously made plans to meet up with friends, but we’re either tired, not in the mood to wear anything but PJ’s or—let’s be honest—something better came up. If you have to bail for a good reason it’s not a big deal, but when it becomes a habit, your friends may stop asking you to join them.

Build New Friendships

Not everyone can be the funny, charismatic life of the party, but sometimes people who are more reserved don’t engage with people as much as they’d like to, feeling disconnected. Step out of your comfort zone, put yourself out there and speak to someone. It can be anyone—the barista at the coffee shop you frequent, your coworker, or your neighbor. Something as simple as a compliment can spark a friendship.

One more way to avoid feeling lonely is to change your state of mind. Learn how positive thinking can improve your brain health.