Loneliness: Is It Lethal?

The Loneliness Is It Lethal infographic discusses the emotional harm that can come from being alone. Recent scientific studies show that loneliness can be as bad for your health as smoking.

Loneliness: Is It Lethal? infographic
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Is Loneliness Lethal?

Recent scientific studies say it can be defined as the want of intimacy. (Frieda Fromm-Reichmann)

Loneliness varies with age

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2010, slightly more than 1 out of 3 adults 45 and over reported being chronically lonely (meaning they’ve been lonely for a long time).
2000: only 1 out of 5 said that.
40 percent of adults today said they were lonely, up from 20 percent in the 1980s.

Who are the lonely?: They’re the outsiders

the elderly,
the poor,
the bullied,
the different.

Surveys confirm that:

  • people who feel discriminated against feel more lonely than those who aren’t
  • Women are lonelier than men (though unmarried men are lonelier than unmarried women).
  • African Americans are lonelier than whites (though single African American women are less lonely than Hispanic and white women).
  • The less educated are lonelier than the better educated.
  • The unemployed and the retired are lonelier than the employed.

People are becoming more and more isolated

  • 10% of people often feel lonely,
  • 1/3 have a close friend or relative who they think is very lonely,
  • 1/2 think that people are getting lonelier in general.
  • Over the past two decades, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of Americans who say they have no close confidants.

Survey of 1,500 people:

1 in 4 said they have no one to talk to about their personal troubles or triumphs
Rule out family members and more than 50 % said they had no one to talk to.

Loneliness is Lethal

Survey and follow-up of 2,000 Americans: those who reported being lonely had a 14% greater risk of dying. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include the ones below.
• Depression and suicide
• Cardiovascular disease and stroke
• Increased stress levels
• Obesity
• High blood pressure
• Decreased memory and learning
• Decreased immunity to disease
• Antisocial behavior
• Poor decision-making
• Alcoholism and drug abuse
• The progression of Alzheimer’s disease
• Altered brain function
• Cancer: tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people

How to Beat Loneliness

  • Don’t isolate
  • Use the internet, join online chats and forums
  • Realize you’re not alone (everyone gets lonely)
  • Meet with friends
  • Spend time with your family
  • Get educated: Join a class, get involved in activities
  • Take a walk, ride a bike, read a book
  • Get a pet
  • Do something for, or in your community