Why loneliness is hazardous to your health
Excerpts (via Deric Bownds’ MindBlog)
In a steady stream of recent papers, social psychologists have identified several potentially unhealthy changes in the cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems of chronically lonely people. The findings could help explain why epidemiological studies have often found that socially isolated people have shorter life spans and increased risk of a host of health problems, including infections, heart disease, and depression. The work also adds a new wrinkle, suggesting that it’s the subjective experience of loneliness that’s harmful, not the actual number of social contacts a person has. An impressive network of collaborations with researchers in other disciplines is now pioneering a new science of loneliness.
...scores of studies have found that people who lack social support are more prone to a variety of ailments. An analysis of 148 of these studies, published in the July 2010 issue of PLoS Medicine, suggests that social isolation increases the risk of death about as much as smoking cigarettes and more than either physical inactivity or obesity…loneliness is a health risk on its own, apart from conditions such as depression or stress that are common fellow travelers. More specifically, it seems to be the subjective experience of loneliness that’s important for people’s well-being rather than any objective measure of social connectivity (the number of close contacts someone has, for example).