Loneliness kills. This line could sound so cliché but it seems that there is truth in it. In fact, it could even be deadlier than obesity. It should be considered as a major public health hazard according to the biggest review made.
Based on several studies conducted by different groups of researchers, social and interpersonal skills could greatly affect one’s health. The concern is becoming a crisis not only to older people but even to the young ones. Mental Health Foundation revealed that 18 to 34 year old were likely to feel lonely more often than those aging over 55.
The recent study conducted by the University of York exposes that people who are lonely have 30 per cent higher risk to suffer a stroke or heart disease. Which are undoubtedly the two major causes of death in Britain.
The reason why heart stroke and heart disease are more likely to occur to people with poor social interaction was disclosed last year. Harvard University reports that having social isolation triggers stress signals that increases blood-clotting protein which can cause heart attacks and strokes.
People with very small circle of friends tend to have higher levels of fibrinogen. Too much fibrinogen causes blood pressure to rise and build-up fatty deposits in the arteries.
Britain is named as the “Loneliness Capital of Europe” in an official study conducted recently. People in Britain seem to lack good social relationships even with people living nearby. The Local Government Association even remarked that loneliness should be treated as a major health issue. Age Uk, a charity, adds that it is what withers the lives of over a million older people.
US Researchers discovered after viewing a number of studies concerning the health effects of social isolation and loneliness that lonely people are 50% more prone to dying early. The rate is higher compared to obesity that only has 30% death rate before the age of 70.
Many older people see friends, family and loved ones only once a week. In some cases, even go for a month or months without seeing any. A recent survey even shows that two fifths of the older people which is about 3.9 million only have television as company.
Campaign to Loneliness, a campaign in the Uk that aims to make loneliness everyone’s business. Laura Alcock – Ferguson, the director of the campaign states that meaningful social connections are essential for human happiness. The campaign move to get people involved either as an individual or as a group to help combat loneliness in the community.
According to the Professor of Psychology at Bringham Young University, Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad, people shouldn’t only prepare the financial aspect of their retirement but the social aspect as well. She said that the workplace is where many people get connected with others which is crucial to well-being and survival.
Holt – Lunstad who is also the lead author of the study quoted, “Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment. “Yet an increasing portion of the population now experiences isolation regularly.”
Dr Holt-Lunstad, added that “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. 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. The challenge we face now is what can be done about it.”
With the results of the various studies, researchers recommend social skills training for children in schools should be given emphasis. Doctors are also encouraged to involve social connectedness in medical screening.
Councils must also make sure that there are sufficient facilities that people could come together and interact such as recreation centers, community gardens and other social spaces that people could enjoy.
Loneliness kills only when no one cares and it is good that people are starting to recognize the concern seriously and as a social problem rather just a personal one so people could act together to do something about it.