Lack of connection with others not only makes us unhappy but it is also bad for the wellbeing of the body and mind, research finds.
A sense of rejection or isolation increases blood pressure, stress levels and general wear and tear as well as increases your chances of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
It also reduces will power and perseverance, thus affecting the ability to follow a healthy lifestyle, according to scientists.
According to The Telegraph, the findings were outlined by Professor John Cacioppo, of the University of Chicago, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference.
Loneliness not only alters behaviour, but loneliness is related to greater resistance to blood flow through your cardiovascular system, Professor Cacioppo said.
Loneliness leads to higher rises in morning levels of the stress hormone cortisol, affects the immune system, higher blood pressure and an increased level of depression.
Loneliness, or perceived social isolation, also is related to difficulty getting a deep sleep and a faster progression of Alzheimer’s disease, said Professor Cacioppo.
Healthwise, he said the difference between a lonely person and a popular person was akin to “a smoker and a non-smoker”.
“That stunned all of us, myself and all my colleagues in terms of the effects it had,” he said. “It shows just how powerful it is.
“The lonely have poor health. They exercise less, are more likely to quit. Eat more calories. They comfort eat more fats and sugars.
“Loneliness lowers the ability to control yourself. It is really easy after a bad day to have a second scotch and a third to get some comfort.”
One of the founders of a new discipline called social neuroscience, Professor Cacioppo, traced the need for connection to its evolutionary roots.
In order to survive in the past, humans needed to bond to rear their children. In order to flourish, they needed to extend their altruistic and cooperate, he concluded.
Just as physical pain is a prompt to change behaviour, such as moving a finger away from the fire, loneliness evolved as a prompt to action, signalling an ancestral need to repair the social bonds.
The problem of social isolation is likely to grow as conventional family structures die out, said Professor Cacioppo, the author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection.
People are living longer, having fewer children later in life and increasingly mobile around the world.
Surveys also show that people report significantly fewer close friends and confidants than those a generation ago.
While I appreciate you shedding light on the issue, IMO there is hope since ‘loneliness’ is a choice one makes. Even if ‘traditional’ family structures cease to exist, it does not mean one must be without unless he/she chooses to. As a single person, I choose daily a life of ‘fulfilment’ and plenty versus ‘lack there of’ which offers me access to much more joy therefore by passing many of these ailments referred to in this article.
@Tamika: I am so glad you have found a solution to your problem, Tamika, though I think it is slightly misinformed, or perhaps insensitive to state emphatically that ALL lonely people CHOSE to be this way. That has certainly not been the case for me, and a lot of people whom I know. If, for example, a student from China who has no brothers and sisters due to the infamous one-child-policy moves to the USA to study and due to language and cultural barriers struggles to make native friends, yet has no siblings and rarely can afford to speak to their parents back home, that kind of loneliness is certainly not voluntary. I am in a similar position and have recently emigrated from my native country, try and participate actively in Church, volunteer work and due to lack of money for transport, lack of knowledge of the local language, culture and customs and lack of an adequate orientation network am still VERY LONELY and have developed severe clinical depression due to loneliness. I did NOT choose this. It’s terrible to live in this social networking generation where people confuse Facebook friendships with real interactions. It is further aggravated when people continue to live their lives inside of their own concerns with little consideration for those who are not only alone, but are truly lonely. Even as I type this, I get the impression that you are the type of person who has NOT stepped out of your way to welcome someone new into your life, because if you had ever experienced the true depth of loneliness that I have, you would definitely not write it off as simply being a choice.
@Gloria: I agree. Trust me, you dont have to come from anothe country, or spek a different language to feel isolated. Sometimes, you just have to grown old, have health problems that keep you from living a once active life, or going to your job. One could also move away from friends you have know for most your life in a very big and busy city to a smaller, less dangerous place for the sake of your chldren. This has been my experience in the last few years. I have more doctors visits than ever before. I cry more than any other time in my life and trust me, this is definetly NOT BY CHOICE. I struggle daily with weight gain , diabetes, high blood pressure, and a recently discovered heart problem. Iam only 51 years old. I feelguilt, because I should be able to control this, do somthing about this.Believe me, its easier said than done.I will pray for you Gloria as I do for myself. And for Tamika, that she will never know this feeling.