Being Friendless Is More Dangerous Than Being Fat

As I’ve gotten older, two things have become clear: it’s harder to make friends, and it’s harder to stay in shape. What’s surprising is that both can be hazardous to your health.

When you’re in high school and college, interaction with your peers is a daily occurrence–you study together, work part-time jobs together, and even party together. But as you become older, establish a career and pair off with a spouse, social circles tend to narrow down. We become more particular about the personalities with which we want to associate. We worry about old friends getting along with new. And let’s face it, we start to prefer the company of the couch and television to the “work” of attending parties (hence the difficulty of staying in shape).

Before you know it, you might start to feel lonely. Especially if you’ve yet to find that special someone. And research indicates this isolation might actually be worse for your health than that cheese danish you eat before work every morning.

“Being lonely isn’t bad for you, but staying lonely is,” said John Cacioppo, a Social Neuroscientist from the University of Chicago, and he’s got the science to prove it. According to recent studies, people with the highest amount of prolonged loneliness were twice as likely to die compared to those with the lowest amount of loneliness.

And just being around people all day–say for your job or church functions–doesn’t necessarily help. “Some of the most profound loneliness can happen when other people are present,” says Harry Reis, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. Just being in the presence of others can’t replace meaningful relationships.

Learn more by scrolling through the infographic below. And why not call up an old friend tonight? It might just save your life.

Loneliness vs. Obesity

Image via Thinkstock


Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a year ago

Thank you for posting.

Christine Jones
Christine J4 years ago

Thank you for bringing this complex problem out into the open.

Jordan G.
Jordan G5 years ago

Not a surprise. It comes in all sizes.

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa5 years ago

Thank you

Theresa D.
Theresa D5 years ago


Karen F.
Karen P5 years ago

I have felt very lonely and alienated in the midst of a crowd of people. Try to tell myself that this, too, shall pass. It's pretty horrible though.

Summerannie Moon
Summerannie M5 years ago

Thanks, interesting article. 1 agree with the person a few below me re the graphic, it's really very difficult to read. The colours don't seem to work in harmony. It's hard to focus to read in parts. Sorry.

Mickey Clees
Past Member 5 years ago

When I grew up we had a brand new gadget in our living room ... a 6 inch (screen) tv!! Wow .. what a humungous deal it was. As the years have come an gone the new gadgets have come out faster and faster and now they seem to be most people's BFF. I was an only child and grew up lonely in a neighborhood where I was ignored because I was so terribly shy. After I married and had children the loneliness went away ... but then the kids were gone and we had to move to a new state. I spent nearly 20 years with no family (save for my husband) and no friends. My only contact with other humans (I couldn't work) was when we went to the store or out to dinner. Thankfully I know how to be alone ... how to enjoy peace and quiet ... but there is more to loneliness ... if you need support (if you get very ill) you really don't have it. Life depends on human to human connections ... NOT with a 'gadget' in between. We need to see, to touch, to feel, to hear, and to be able to HUG, in order to survive life. Today's young people are in for a very hard time if for whatever reason technology goes away. They aren't prepared to be alone with their own thoughts.

Robyn O.
Robyn O.5 years ago

Who designed that poster? It's very disrupting, hard to read and understand. The sections don't relate to each other very well. It was the wrong idea to use to illustrate this article. One of the problems of our society is that we don't appreciate quiet, contemplation or beauty. Music is loud and raucous, everyone is forever "connecting" with their BFFs (via their thumbs on the iphone), no one wants to be alone and content with their own thoughts. Everything is "awesome". Everyone is a "rock star" -- the highest compliment. We don't need any more superficial interaction, we need silence and beautiful sounds and pictures in our lives. Being alone may not be the problem, it may be the constant search for duplicates of ourselves or for others who can supply us with "entertainment".

Holly Lewis
Past Member 5 years ago

Thank you Stephen G!