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10 ways loneliness can affect your health — physically and mentally

INSIDER Logo By Sarah Schmalbruch of INSIDER | Slide 1 of 11:  There are plenty of obvious ways in which your lifestyle affects your physical and mental health. For instance, there are "healthy" eating habits that actually aren't so healthy, and there's the age-old question of whether or not you're getting enough sleep. But there's a less obvious aspect of your lifestyle that might be impacting your health: loneliness. INSIDER spoke to two experts about loneliness: Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, and Dr. Nancy Donovan, a psychiatrist who specializes in geriatrics and neurology at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. Both have studied the effects of loneliness extensively and have conducted studies on the subject. Before delving into the adverse health effects that can be brought on by loneliness, it's critical to understand the definition of that term. Both Donovan and Holt-Lunstad said there are two different types of loneliness: subjective and objective. Objective loneliness refers to the physical state of being alone or socially isolated. Subjective loneliness, on the other hand, refers to the feeling of being alone - even if you're not actually alone. It's an emotional rather than physical state. "It's that subjective, distressing feeling of that discrepancy between one's desired and actual level of social connection," Holt-Lunstad said. The studies mentioned below show that there are risks associated with both kinds of loneliness.

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There are plenty of obvious ways in which your lifestyle affects your physical and mental health.

For instance, there are "healthy" eating habits that actually aren't so healthy, and there's the age-old question of whether or not you're getting enough sleep.

But there's a less obvious aspect of your lifestyle that might be impacting your health: loneliness.

INSIDER spoke to two experts about loneliness: Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, and Dr. Nancy Donovan, a psychiatrist who specializes in geriatrics and neurology at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. Both have studied the effects of loneliness extensively and have conducted studies on the subject.

Before delving into the adverse health effects that can be brought on by loneliness, it's critical to understand the definition of that term. Both Donovan and Holt-Lunstad said there are two different types of loneliness: subjective and objective. Objective loneliness refers to the physical state of being alone or socially isolated. Subjective loneliness, on the other hand, refers to the feeling of being alone - even if you're not actually alone. It's an emotional rather than physical state.

"It's that subjective, distressing feeling of that discrepancy between one's desired and actual level of social connection," Holt-Lunstad said.

The studies mentioned below show that there are risks associated with both kinds of loneliness.

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