Can You Die From Loneliness?

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Can You Die From Loneliness?
Health And Wellness

At some point in life, we all experience loneliness.

Whether you’ve just come out of a relationship, moved somewhere where you know no one, feel isolated within your friend group, or are just struggling to connect with people, loneliness does not discriminate.

This sensation is unpleasant and puts people in a negative headspace. But can you die from loneliness?

RELATED: 5 Ways To Deal With Loneliness (& Start Making Genuine Connections)

Unsurprisingly, this phenomenon is well researched by psychologists and scientists, and these studies have some interesting results that connect feelings of isolation with lower life expectancies and increased health risks.

Researchers with the Indian Psychiatric Society have found that loneliness is just as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, making lonely people 50 percent more likely to die prematurely than those with healthy social relationships!

This is a growing epidemic that’s impacting an ever-increasing number of people. But how are we being affected by loneliness, and what does this mean for our health? 

Here are a few things to keep in mine about loneliness and the negative health effects it has on our lives.

1. Understand that loneliness does not mean being alone.

Some solitude is good for you, and people who choose to spend time alone are not necessarily lonely. Equally, spending lots of time around people doesn’t mean you don’t experience loneliness.

Loneliness is a feeling rather than a physical state. Being alone must be a choice in order for it to be healthy.

If someone wants companionship and support but lacks social interaction that provides this, they are likely to experience the emotional and physical effects of loneliness. 

RELATED: The 7 Types Of Loneliness (And Why It Matters)

2. Loneliness has negative effects on health.

Isolation and loneliness have damaging mental health effects, leading to suicide-ideation and depression.

Lacking in social support, people who suffer from loneliness often become trapped in negative states of mind. This can also lead to physical health implications.

In a University of Chicago study of men and women 50 to 68 years old, those who scored highest on measures of loneliness also had higher blood pressure. Their blood pressure readings were as much as 30 points higher than non-lonely people.

This increases the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the US. Social isolation puts people at risk of experiencing a sudden death. So often we hear of an elderly person living alone who injured themselves and could not get medical attention until it was too late.    

3. But young people are at risk, too.

Of course, there is a common misconception that it's only older people who experience the lethal effects of loneliness.

A review study published in Perspectives in Psychological Science compared the findings of 70 scientific publications that included over 3 million participants and found that loneliness had particularly damaging effects on people under the age of 65.

In the game of life, being alone or lonely is considered a failure of some sort. The study examined how loneliness can be a source of shame for younger people, a stigma that only worsens the effects of social isolation.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Connect With People When You’re Feeling Isolated & Lonely

4. Modern life is causing isolation.

So, what’s going on? How, in a world where we can communicate with millions from our phones, is loneliness an increasing problem?

Interestingly, it's this very technology that's impacting our social interactions negatively.

Technology changes the way we relate to each other and takes the intimacy out of our social interactions. It might seem counterintuitive, but social media can be a leading cause in social isolation, particularly among young adults.

One study found that people who visited social media platforms 58 visits per week or more had more than three times the odds of perceived social isolation than those who visited fewer than 9 times per week.

5. Quality matters more than quantity in relationships.

Modern life might make it easy to connect with as many people as possible, but these connections are often fickle and don’t give us the support we crave.

It’s far more beneficial to have a few close friends than it is to have hundreds of acquaintances. Taking time to build bonds by hanging out with friends in person, joining a sports team, or volunteering with a social group will do more for you than group chats and Facebook posts ever could. 

RELATED: 5 Completely Realistic Ways To Stop Feeling So Incredibly Lonely

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Alice Kelly is a writer with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.