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Loneliness Harms Health: Why You Need Friends

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Loneliness Harms Health: Why You Need Friends

Can loneliness hurt your health? And what defines loneliness?

Even as modern technology increases our access to other people, our intimate relationships are becoming more scarce. Families are smaller and relatives don’t always live in close proximity anymore. More people work from home, and busy schedules and “to do” lists keep us from connecting in a meaningful way.

That same modern technology that permits us to easily connect with people from all over the world also tends to get in the way of time spent in real face-to-face relationships. Our inborn desire for intimate relationships with other human beings is, for many of us, not being met.

I recently happened across an article reporting on a University of Chicago study that says that long-term loneliness can be a risk factor for hypertension in people aged 50 and older, even when depression and stress are factored out. The study also took other risk factors, like body-mass index, smoking, alcohol use, and demographic differences, into account. Researchers concluded that loneliness is a unique health-risk factor in its own right.

A 2007 article in Medical News Today links the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in old age to social isolation — feeling disconnected from a social environment and close relationships and a general feeling of abandonment. This feeling of loneliness can happen even when one has many social contacts, and increase with age as our circle of friends and family gets smaller after retirement, death of loved ones, and loss of mobility. Researchers found that loneliness was linked to lower levels of cognitive function as well as more rapid decline of function. People who identified themselves as lonely experienced double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s than those who described themselves as least lonely. Notably, actual physical isolation was less important than perceived isolation.

Studies indicate that a sense of isolation disrupts not only will power and perseverance, but key cellular processes deep within the human body. So said a 2008 article on Psychcentral.com. The article goes on to say that chronic loneliness belongs among risk factors such as smoking, obesity, or lack of exercise, and feeling a sense of social connection is vital to mental well-being and physical health.

A 2008 article by USA Today suggested that the pain of loneliness is less about being alone than about feeling alone. Loneliness is a biological process and the effects of this feeling of loneliness can take a physical toll. The mind/body connection is a powerful one.

Loneliness can hamper the immune system, reported WebMD in 2005. A study of college freshmen showed that social isolation can have a stressful impact on the immune system.

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Read more: Alzheimer's, Blogs, Caregiving, Conditions, Family, Friendship, Health, Living with MS, Multiple Sclerosis, , , ,

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11:11AM PDT on Apr 9, 2014

Friends can be backstabbers and horrible, getting out once in a while is nice, but I prefer dogs. Though I do like going to zumba and kickboxing classes, and swimming on my own. Maybe I'll join a swim group or exercise group, as long as the people aren't too nosy, and try and force me to date or do drugs. But then again, I enjoy exercising on my own or with one or two other people, and those classes. I also like my alone time when I come back, so I can read a book, study, take a nap, etc.

11:10AM PDT on Apr 9, 2014

Friends can be backstabbers and horrible, getting out once in a while is nice, but I prefer dogs. Though I do like going to zumba and kickboxing classes, and swimming on my own. Maybe I'll join a swim group or exercise group, as long as the people aren't too nosy, and try and force me to date or do drugs. But then again, I enjoy exercising on my own or with one or two other people, and those classes. I also like my alone time when I come back, so I can read a book, study, take a nap, etc.

9:25AM PDT on Jul 8, 2013

Friends? ha! as you get older most people do not make a lot of friends like one did when they were a teenager. It is much more difficult to meet and be accepted by the people one would like to know.

6:37PM PDT on Jun 26, 2013

Keep an eye open for like-minded people, a place or group for starters. Shared interests are key, only then do friendships that hold some weight develop Neighbors, schoolmates, etc. from "another time" who may have drifted in the day to day shuffle, but with whom you share memories and comradery, are sometimes easier to rekindle than you think ... give it a try?

Some amount of alone time is good for the soul, allows revisiting life, what's working, what's not, adjustment possibilities, etc. Isolation is not good for the soul.

What about volunteering (animal shelter, nursing facility), mentoring (summer camp/park district programs), taking up a hobby or cooking class, visiting another who's also alone (we all know someone, but often get caught up in our own pity party), gardening, bowling, music ... unexpected rewards often present, totally unexpected.

11:07AM PDT on Mar 24, 2013

Berny I agree

8:54AM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

Some peopledo not have a choice...they are lonely....

If you dont have a job...girls will not want to go out with you...
You dont own your flat......forget it ...girls dont want to know you...
You have volonter and gone to fight for your country.....forget it you become an outcast...do gooders tell you you are a murderer...

you have work hard in your study...you have a masters...you want to work but people only give you contract work.....so you never know when the next pay check comes from...

I have seen many young men in this situation in the uk and it break my heart when I try to help them!

Many girls now days are to aggressive and only think of money....
very glad that I meet a good english guy and been married for 45 years!

So girls ...think again...because someone has not got a job does not mean he is useless!

8:42AM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

More people really are lonely than admit to it I think.

4:57AM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

So true. Thanks for the timely article!

11:10AM PST on Jan 11, 2012

thank you for sharing:)

11:09AM PST on Jan 11, 2012

I need face time with people. I need to find people who want the same thing and actually mean it, not the "friends" that agree with you and you hang out once but then they don't respond back after that one day

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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