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Loneliness is a bigger health problem than obesity — and it’s getting worse

9Coach logo 9Coach 12/08/2017 Sam Downing
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Here’s some news to puncture your good mood: US psychologists have declared loneliness and social isolation to be a bigger potential public health hazard than obesity.

Research presented at the recent American Psychological Association convention details the impact of social isolation and how it is expected to cast a longer, darker shadow over society.

“Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need — crucial to both well-being and survival… yet an increasing portion of the US population now experiences isolation regularly,” said Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University, in a statement.

(By the way: that statement is cheerfully titled “So lonely I could die” and was presumably penned by Debbie Downer.)

More than 42 million Americans aged over 45 are believed to experience “chronic loneliness”, while the number of people who live alone and are unmarried continues to rise.

“These trends suggest that Americans are becoming less socially connected and experiencing more loneliness,” said Holt-Lunstad.

Holt-Lunstad cited extreme examples of the impact of loneliness, including infants who fail to thrive and often die when deprived of human contact, and how social isolation and solitary confinement are both used as forms of punishment.

She presented studies that suggested greater social connectedness reduces the risk of early death by a huge 50 percent; while social isolation, loneliness or living alone significantly increased the risk to at least the same level as 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 Holt-Lunstad.

“With an increasing aging population, the effect on public health is only anticipated to increase. Indeed, many nations around the world now suggest we are facing a ‘loneliness epidemic.’”

That epidemic is as much of a blight on Australians as it is on Americans, according to local research which suggests we feel more isolated than ever, even if we’re surrounded by people.

Oh. Cool.


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