Being single is a difficult experience for many people going through adulthood. Of course, if you have friends and family you’ll never be alone, but these people can’t be by your side all day long. Some people choose to live their life single, but others need a partner in order to live normally.
The fact that we’re all surrounded by people who want to get married and have a family of their own making being single an even worse experience. Experts say that loneliness is becoming a public hazard and according to newest studies, being single can actually kill us faster than obesity.
The research published in the New York Post examined more than 200 studies that examined the health effects of isolation and loneliness. The results showed that single and lonely people had a 50% higher risk of death compared to the 30% of obese individuals. Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, professor of Psychology at Brigham University and lead author on the research says that being connected to others is a basic human need. “Past studies have shown that infants who lack human contact fail to develop properly and often die. Social isolation has been used as a form of punishment in many countries, but people in the USA are still experiencing isolation on a regular basis,” she says. Of course, the matter needs to be more thoroughly examined, but the findings are quite interesting.
According to a Huffington Post article on the study, UK is the loneliness capital of Europe. The epidemic of loneliness in the UK costs the government more than $25 million per year in sick days and declining mental health. Canadian experts in 2017 predicted that the same epidemic could invade Canada soon as there are more and more Canadians that choose to live alone.
Other doctors agree with Holt-Lunstad’s view. Dr.Dhruv Khullar from Weill Cornell Medicine (New York) told the New York Times that there’s mounting evidence which shows that socially isolated people experience insomnia, abnormal immune response and cognitive decline far more often than those in a relationship. Data from the Harvard Aging Brain Study on nearly 80 cognitively normal adults has associated loneliness with Alzheimer’s disease. The study was led by Dr. Nancy J. Donovan, who asked elderly patients 3 questions on loneliness and then assessed the results along with the level of amyloid plaque in their brains. The results showed that mild depression has a stronger effect on the heightened risk of cognitive decline when compared to loneliness. Dr. Donovan is sure that bigger depressive symptoms can affect our cognitive performance and may even lead to dementia.
As we said, loneliness (along with the isolation of being single and depression) is becoming a global problem, which is why we need to raise awareness about it now more than ever. We need to talk to isolated and depressed people instead of leaving them on their own as they need all the help they can get.