The biggest health danger is not obesity or smoking…it’s loneliness, a new study finds.
Brigham Young University researchers looked at 218 studies of the health effects of social isolation. They involved more than 4 million people.
The scientists discovered that lonely people have a 50% higher risk of early death. By contrast, obesity raises the chances of dying before age 70 by only 30%.1
How Loneliness Kills
Loneliness is linked to a wide range of serious health problems. As you might expect, it boosts depression and suicide. But it’s also tied to high blood pressure, stroke, anxiety, immune problems, inflammation, and heart disease.2
Julianne Holt-Lunstad is a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University. She led the research team and recently presented their findings at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. She said the study is a wakeup call that loneliness should be recognized as a major health scourge.
“The magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” she said. “We are facing a loneliness epidemic. The challenge we face now is what can be done about it.”3
Loneliness is increasing in the U.S. The most recent census data shows more than a quarter of the population lives alone. More than half of adults are single. And the number of children per household has declined.4 5
10 Best Ways to Beat Loneliness
Dr. Paul Nussbaum is an adjunct professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He is one of the world’s leading experts on brain aging.
Dr. Nussbaum says loneliness profoundly damages the structure of the brain. “It actually begins to shrink and weaken,” he says. Loneliness “is really the equivalent of having a chronic illness.”
Here are 10 recommendations from Dr. Nussbaum to reduce social isolation:
- Reach out. Call a friend or family member. Don’t always wait for them to contact you. Tell yourself you’re not imposing and they’ll be glad to hear from you.
- Get a pet. A dog or cat offers companionship.
- Join a club. Find one that focuses on one of your special interests and ignites your passion. It could be cooking, knitting, movies, whatever. The important thing is to meet others who share your enthusiasm.
- Join a book discussion group. You’ll read a book and then meet with others who have read it and share your views. Check with your local library to join.
- Volunteer. There’s a myriad of organizations and civic entities that will welcome volunteers. Check with your local hospital, police department, or church.
- Join a fitness club. Surround yourself with others pursuing a healthy lifestyle.
- Join an online chat group. It’s important you get to know the others in the group personally. Engage them on an emotional level.
- Get involved at church. Faith communities are a wonderful place to bond with others who share your values.
- Go back to school. Many colleges allow seniors to audit classes for free. Or take an online course. Study literature, history, astronomy, science, psychology, or anything else that interests you.
- Make plans for the future. Giving yourself something to look forward to fights depression and a lack of purpose in life.
Editor’s Note: If you’re worried about getting older, there’s something else you should know… It’s NEVER too late to build a strong brain.
That’s why Dr. Nussbaum created his unique Ageless Brain Kit.