Researchers have indeed claimed that loneliness is as bad as smoking heavily and obesity, and could cut our lives short by a significant margin, increasing the risk of an early death by an incredible 30%. Whereas a few years ago, the biggest evils we had to worry about were cancer, heart disease and diabetes, health officials are now adding loneliness to that ever growing list. Young adults these days are being warned about the perils living alone and isolating themselves from their friends could have on their life expectancy.
Lead author of the research, Julianne Holt-Lunstand said, “We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously. The effect of this is comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously.”
There is obviously an argument that the expansion of the Internet has led to this so-called loneliness epidemic. Because these days it is easier to just stay indoors and communicate with people at will via instant messaging, more of us are choosing not to leave the house. But this simply puts us at a greater risk of isolation, and thus an early grave.
The studies show demonstrate clearly that health is not just mind, body and soul – it is also social. Just a few years ago, anyone who preferred to lock themselves in their rooms, ignoring their friends so that they could play video games and read books alone were referred to as ‘loners.’ Now they’ll be referred to Death Seekers. Or something.
But the ultimate point is that to improve our physical health and mental being, we could do a lot worse than heed the advice of the research and get out more, see our friends, and live our lives in the company of others. Not only could it make us happy in the short term, but it could also see us live longer. So the next time your friend calls and asks if you want to pop round and look at photographs of his vacation, instead of putting it off, tell him you love him and go and see him. He might just add another 3 months to your life.