Study: Loneliness, social isolation greater health problem in US than obesity

WASHINGTON — Is feeling alone the greatest health problem Americans face? While the obesity epidemic has long been front-and-center in major cities across the U.S., new research finds that loneliness and social isolation is an even greater public health threat than being overweight.

Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University conducted two meta-analyses of previous studies to determine how social isolation, loneliness, and living alone plays a role in a person’s risk of dying.

Person sitting alone on bench
New research shows that loneliness, social isolation, and living alone pose a greater heath threat to Americans than being overweight.

In an analysis of 148 studies that included more than 300,000 people total, her research team found that “a greater social connection” cuts a person’s risk of early death by 50 percent.

“Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need — crucial to both well-being and survival. Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment,” says Holt-Lunstad in an American Psychological Association press release. “Yet an increasing portion of the U.S. population now experiences isolation regularly.”

In her second analysis, she looked at the role that loneliness, social isolation, and living alone played in a person’s lifespan. Using 70 studies that included more than 3.4 million participants (mostly from North America, but some studies did look at people in Europe, Asia, and Australia), the research team concluded that all three were as much of — and in some cases more — a threat to a person’s health as obesity and other risk factors.

All three conditions were found to be equally hazardous and significantly raised the risk of premature death.

“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” says Holt-Lunstad.

According to AARP’s Loneliness Study conducted in 2010, 35 percent of Americans age 45 and older are suffering from chronic loneliness — which equates to about 43 million people. Similarly, half the country’s adult population is unmarried and more than a quarter live alone, according to U.S. census data.

“These trends suggest that Americans are becoming less socially connected and experiencing more loneliness,” adds Holt-Lunstad, who presented the findings today at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Washington.

Moving forward, Holt-Lunstad hopes that health officials nationwide spend significant resources  to help tackle the issues of loneliness and isolation. She suggests primary care physicians screen for such conditions during routine examinations and that Americans consider ways to ensure they enjoy a socially-connected retirement in similar ways they plan financially for retiring. Otherwise, she sees the issue growing far worse in the near future.

“With an increasing aging population, the effect on public health is only anticipated to increase. Indeed, many nations around the world now suggest we are facing a ‘loneliness epidemic.’ The challenge we face now is what can be done about it,” she says.

Comments

  1. Is loneliness the problem, or is a lack of money the problem? 🙂 If you have a very good income throughout your entire adult life, I don’t think that loneliness is going to bother you. For one thing, you can move in to a retirement home and be around people all the time. I just read where Oprah Winfrey said that she enjoys being alone. Yeah, I would think so! Ha! I think that a lack of enough money consistently coming in, or the fear of eventually not having enough money consistently coming in, is a BIGGER problem than loneliness. Money can indirectly buy you friendship, a mate, adopted children, better physical and mental health, and almost anything other than the ability to live forever. A lack of money is the problem. Loneliness is NOT the problem!

  2. Stop and think about how stupid the average person is. Now stop and think about the fact that this means that half of them are even more stupid.

    Some of us appreciate isolation and being left alone by the masses.

  3. Not all people who live alone are lonely. They prefer their own company to that of mean, selfish, disloyal asssholes.

  4. After hearing for two decades that the obesity epidemic in the US was the most serious health issue, I am a bit skeptical about this new “study” and its findings. Could it be something being promoted by the mental health profession who have been clamoring for a much larger piece of the health spending pie?

  5. Yes, there are many trends in society that increase isolation. But many people who are isolated have poor life skills, don’t get the best diet, exercise, can’t afford the best medical care, etc. That is what causes their health problems, not just ‘not having anyone to talk to’.

    Just ‘being isolated’ is not something that exists in a vacuum. It affects other things which are THE THINGS THAT ACTUALLY AFFECT YOUR HEALTH.

    ‘Social Science’ is an oxymoron.

  6. I’m a mixture of both, an extrovert and and introvert. When I want to be around people I seek them out. Other times I go for weeks with no desire to be around another human. Different strokes for different folks.

  7. The greatest threat to my health has been the democrat party. Against the will of the American people, their healthcare choices were reduced, limited, and in some cases eliminated. Get the democrat party (big government overreach) out of my life, my freedoms and my liberties.

  8. Pushing the narrative that being a part of the greater social collective in order to achieve success or happiness is fundamental to the use of propaganda, to the formation of men’s attitudes. The powers that be require people to fear loneliness and to fear the concept of social ostracization from ‘the pack’, otherwise peer pressure and groupthink don’t work, at which point leading the masses around by the nose becomes a futile effort. Humans aren’t hive minded. Though it’s very popular these days to treat any semblance of uniqueness or individual thought as a chemical imbalance to be addressed by psychotropic drugs designed to help you.. ‘better assimilate into society’. Because there can only be something wrong with you. Never the society, or it’s direction.

    There is a big difference between knowing what to believe and knowing how to think. Sadly, there are so very few people left in our ‘progressive’ and meticulously socially engineered Western societies who have any idea what that difference is. And they are treated very poorly by the groupthink-ruled majority of society even just for attempting to have a dialogue and value truth over all else. That is true loneliness.

  9. The most depressing thing to me is that medical professionals actually believe, and spread this kind of crap to people

  10. Wouldnt someone that was alone a lot and drove a lot less than normal people statistically live longer then most people when accidents account for so many deaths?

  11. Yeah I can see it now. The results of the next autopsy will be this man died from a broken heart. From now on we wont arrive at physical reasons for deaths we will come up with mental ones. Maybe this woman died because she didnt pet her dog that morning with enough love.

  12. Whatever happened to people like gary cooper? The strong silent type. These days people dont know how to shut up

  13. This is just stupid. Anyone that is alone can go anywhere like a store or bar and instantly be more socially connected. You can go talk to anyone just about anywhere almost anytime you want.

  14. If you think about it most of the problems and crises that occur in our lives are due to the interaction with other people. By staying alone and greatly limiting these interactions the problems and dramas also greatly decrease.

  15. Another BS Liberal study! Do something worthwhile with that grant money. How about studying coffee drinkers for the umpteenth time. We need more opinions on this crap like we need a hole in the head.

  16. I think the problem is that many many people are not likable and make very lousy friends. This also explains why less and less people are getting married. And that people are having fewer children. Let’s face it, no one wants to be friends with people that are selfish.

  17. Whenever I feel lonely I just go to the comment section and make some kind of statement about God’s will. Then I’m assured a lively conversation with a bunch of Ahole atheists.

  18. its bc a great deal of them wind up getting divorced in their mid to late 30’s unexpectedly. happenend to me when my ex of 19 years who is bipolar went off meds and abandoned me and our three kids and decided to cheat for a year straight. now I am alone and going back to school. he is a ghost and it is like I was never married. I am at the point where I can see myself being a lone for a long time. I am only 39 and of course would like to eventually remarry, but that trust is broken. the article does not hit this point that it is a massive problem right now and it is so hard to get back into the pool when you have kids and trust issues. no one wants to be alone, but the social media has destroyed peoples concept of how to talk to one another. all they do is stare at their stupid iPhone and not look at each other and have a conversation.

  19. The older one gets the lonelier one gets. Partly, because many of the people you once knew have passed. Great-Grandparents, grandparents, parents and brothers sisters and friends. If you live till 100, you’ll know this to be true and you’ll have all the wisdom in the world to contemplate…why?

  20. Chuckling…..the best thing to be right now is isolated. Oh I don’t mean like the younger generation who never lifts up their heads from their devices to interact with humanity and needs an isolated safe space. I mean responsible, savvy, and at peace, enjoying the little things in life, the best things, which I am. I want nothing to do with most of what is walking around outside. If people aren’t fat nowadays (especially the women), they’re stupid.
    I have no intention of allowing the fat and ignorant of America to stop us from MAGA and I participate in and agree with everything conservative and good for American. A lot of good is happening right now. These fatties and idiots pose no real threat to a shifting America that is headed back in the right direction. Isolated in spirit? No, I’m happy and optimistic now that we’ve crushed the Left.

  21. At 66, I have purposely pulled away, and distanced myself from those I once knew. My good buddy past on, and I dislike everyone else. I find I would much rather be alone, then have to tolerate such lies, and those who don’t like me, yet act as they do because I may have something they want! Self serving and only use me, I stay alone!!

  22. All one needs is a facebook, twitter, snap chat and an other form of social media account. Plus a selfie stick.

  23. Nothing created more social disconnect than the legislation of speech by political correctness “police”. People quit communicating from their hearts, when they feared that what they said at any time might be used against them. The attack against speech lead to the voting in a man who says whatever is on his mind, whenever he wants to say it, Free speech is the end of a lot of isolation for many, and an era of trust and openness. No more speech police.

  24. I’m on the frontier of this issue, having lived my life unmarried, without children, now without family, and having traveled the world alone. I’ve literally spent periods of weeks where I have not seen or even communicated with another human being, times on sailboats, in vehicles, in places where nobody would have ever known what happened to me if something had gone wrong.

    There’s a common belief that loneliness isn’t the same as being alone, and for the most part I agree with that, with caveats. One caveat is that this idea breaks down the longer you are alone, and I do not believe that people can be alone indefinitely. A second caveat is that this last statement is the best case scenario, and it all gets exponentially worse when things stop going well, because it is events and situations that cause alone-ness to turn into loneliness, and it is at some point beyond your control. Things can be fine for long periods of time alone, until you start to have a health problem, or you lose something that you were depending on, or you run out a resources that you needed, or the weather puts your life in jeopardy, or you fall and break a bone, etc. All of the things that can keep you going until that point – enthusiasm for your effort, ego, willpower, it all breaks down when too many things go wrong, and every person will yearn for contact with other people at that point. It is at that point when there is uncertainty and fear that alone-ness will turn into loneliness, sadness, fear, and even desperation.

    Believe or it or not, even all of what I wrote above is the most optimistic case for being alone. I think that for most people who grew up in a loving environment, who have lived with others, have had relationships, who have been married, have had children, spent time with family, etc, for them I think the picture is more bleak, and I do not think it is possible for them to spend large amounts of time alone without suffering lasting psychological effects. People who are divorced, people who have lost loved ones, the elderly, children who have lost their parents, these are the people who are at the highest risk, in my opinion. Living alone requires skills, it is an all encompassing way of life, and it is not something to wander into unprepared for consequences. You may be okay at first, but when you get into your first serious situation and want to reach out to others you will start to understand what loneliness really is – even suffering through a touch of influenza completely alone is too much for most people.

    1. she is not a tranny. but she definitely rules the roost and tells the wimpy effeminate mooselem tool what to do and when to do it.

  25. Life has many impacts beyond the number in a household. Healthy dietary habits are often more challenging in single households too. Whether the individual gains energy from being an introvert or extrovert would also play into this. Studies that only view a single aspect of life are those of a limited dimension with little relevance.

  26. The source of this lies in SJWs and especially Feminists.
    You can’t even say anything nice to the opposite sex without being attacked for it. Everything you say is “RACIST” no matter what it actually is or means. It’s best not to connect with anyone outside specifically job or business connected circumstances…
    Paradoxically, maybe a bit of hostility will help solve this.

    1. I’m pretty sure loneliness has been brewing in America for decades and has nothing to do with political correctness.

      1. I remember such comments from back in the 1950s. Often attributed to the continuing Puritan influence — today’s incarnation of the latter being feminism and political correctness. Self-appointed moral overseers criticizing and shaming everybody for not doing what the overseers want.

        1. Or maybe alienation is the caveat of our modern consumerist society. I don’t think a bunch of SJW types have as much impact on the average American as the primary structures in which they live in the technological present. We might have to admit that a system that is good at moving money around, getting things bought and sold, may not be as beneficial to our souls, despite material gains.

          1. I don’t know what souls are.
            However, when I have enough money to pay bills without worry and to buy a few things I want I’m happier than not.
            Usually this antiwealth stuff is put forth by rich people — whom you don’t see handing out their extra money. Socialist leaders are rich and stay that way.

  27. Part of the demoralization process that follows ideological subversion. Please look up ideological subversion to see what is happening in the US.

  28. I think that loneliness is a subjective state and doesn’t necessarily manifest the same way in everybody. My wife of 38 years died six months ago. I miss her terribly. I can’t express how much I do.
    Sympathetic friends and strangers urged me to surround myself with dogs and volunteer work so that I wouldn’t be lonely. The thing is, I’m not lonely. I miss my wife and wish I had her back but I am an introvert who has always craved and enjoyed “alone time.” I like to write. I like to read, I like to think and only solitude makes those activities possible.
    What everybody needs is some sense of meaning in his or her life, not a lot of busyness as a substitute. Social interactions are just fine, as far as they go, and people want and need them in individual and varying degrees.

    1. Extroverts are energized by being around people a lot. As an introvert, I like having human interaction for about an hour a day — after that it drains energy. I like being alone and working alone for the most part. Not lonely.

      1. There are people that never shut up. They say every thought they have out aloud, but never say anything worth listening too. Cough cough mostly girls.
        Whatever happened to gary cooper? The strong silent type

        1. Well, my wife was that way to a remarkable extent and I finally came (with her tutelage) to understand that she, as an Extraverted Feeler was “processing out loud.” It’s not that even they were buying into what they were saying, under those circumstances, but that they needed to hear themselves say it in order for their thought processes to be completed and arrive at a conclusion.
          Sounded strange to me but after 38 years, I could see what she was getting at.

          1. When I was a young man in my teens and early twenties, I was very shy and thought that a good relationship with a woman was probably out of all possibility for me It turned out not to be true.
            I wouldn’t prescribe for anyone. But I will say that if you are shy and would like not to be, there are ways to overcome the kind of shyness that may stand between you and happiness.
            There are mental health counseling services, many of them free through State and local social services that can help with that. Many churches have “singles” classes and groups in which it is possible to find help.
            However you go about it, the most important step is the first one where you admit that you have a problem.
            The second step is very much like the first in that you are willing to admit that you have a problem over which you have no control and you ask God to help you with the problem.
            And the third step is to be willing to talk to someone about the problem and ask for help. You have to decide that it is more important to get over the problem than feeling embarrassed because of it.
            My best friend in high school was in your exact situation. He never was able to make it to that third step. I eulogized him at his funeral just a few years ago. The loss of my wife has been very hard on me but I can’t help thinking about all of the wonderful things in our marriage that my friend missed because he never made it that far.

      2. I completely understand. I think that the real problem, when it exists, is that Extraverts (MBTI) have the good motivation of including everybody in everything. That, for them, is normal.

      3. So true. People confuse alone with being lonely. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some people actually enjoy the peace of mind that comes when one is with oneself.

        1. yeah. I dont want to get married. Sounds horrible to me having someone dictate your life to you. In the end everyone dies in their own arms

    2. Alone and lonely are two different things. You can be in a crowd and still be lonely, or you can be alone and not be lonely. It all depends on the personalities.

    3. I’m willing to bet your beloved wife understood your desire for solitude as well. I still have my husband and we both acknowledge one another’s need for alone time. Neither of us wants or needs to be around someone else constantly. Others view us and our relationship as abnormal since we have separate interests and activities. They can think as they please; our life works for us.

      I’m very sorry for the loss of your wife. Even as introverts it’s nice to have at least one person in the world who understands us.

      1. “Even as introverts it’s nice to have at least one person in the world who understands us.” Oh, I will not argue with you about that.

        C.S. Lewis, grieving the death of his wife, Joy:

        “I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get. The old life, the jokes, the drinks, the arguments, the lovemaking, the tiny, heartbreaking commonplace. On any view whatever, to say, ‘H. is dead,’ is to say, ‘All that is gone.’ It is a part of the past. And the past is the past and that is what time means, and time itself is one more name for death, and Heaven itself is a state where ‘the former things have passed away…

        And that, just that, is what I cry out for, with mad, midnight endearments and entreaties spoken into the empty air.”

    4. I am going on 9 years. let me tell you there are no words to describe what you think you can handle and what you go through when you aren’t. You ain’t gonna make it alone. Just sayin.

      1. Well, I hope that I don’t have to make it alone. I’m 65 and entering a phase of life that is very different than that when I met my wife. I still enjoy life. One of the things my wife always said was remarkable about me is how much interest in and joy I get from living. So, I can imagine sharing that with someone else if the opportunity presents itself.
        It seems to be much more difficult for newly widowed men to face life on their own than it does for women to do so. Argue that whichever way you want. But men tend to re-marry after the death of a spouse more quickly than do women. That doesn’t always end well. I can testify to that from what I’ve seen in my experience. So, at my age, in my situation, I am not motivated to seek out another intimate relationship. The desire not to be alone doesn’t always translate into good reasons to get remarried.

      1. So I’ve heard. I suppose that’s good, as far as it goes; if all you’re interested in is getting sex for feeding the poor. I’ll keep that tip on a card in my wallet just in case I get desperate.

  29. I live in the middle of the woods, in a log cabin,with my wife, my 2 dogs and 5 cats, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I might die early, but, I lived to the fullest and my quality of life will be far better than any of you Metro-sexuals will ever be.

    1. You have a wife and dogs. You aren’t alone. This study is about people who work at a job and then spend the rest of their time alone. Or, even worse, don’t work…

      1. There are thousands of inmates that live their whole lives in solitary confinement. Im 100 percent sure they dont die early
        I could argue people that are overly social die early. Think how many people die from alcohol. Every one of them was being “social” right?

      1. Because that is what this entire article just did to folks like me that prefer to live in seclusion away from the rest of you drama queen fucktards

    2. it wont make any difference. This article is BS. One thing shortens a life span – physical stresses on your body. Nothing mental matters.

  30. In other words, left-liberalism kills. Left-liberalism is the process of making people depend on each other less so they will depend on government more. And without that mutual dependency, social relationships are weakened and killed. And people die.

    1. I see you’re one of those idiots…. Reverse psychology…

      To be independnet is “Left-Liberalism”…

      LOL!

      We’re so sick of you political morons in this country, on both sides of the isle.

      1. “Reticulator” might be crass in his wording, but I think he is on to something. The Swedes have for generations tried to make a society where no-one is dependent on any other person. The result is 12.7 suicides pr 100k pr year, higher than USA. In spite having one of the best welfare systems in the world: Free education, health care, liberal government handout if you have no income, etc.

        1. Maybe they just have a different (I would say non-cowardly) view of suicide. Or maybe it is just too cold there.

          1. Or being kept like a pet dog isn’t as life fulfilling as some would like to think…

          2. I would say that analogy of being a pet dog is more true of the United States as corporations, moneyed interests, and bought politicians assert far more control over your life.

      2. Lol that is hilarious. So in a way reticulators personality is literally going to kill you. You are the ultimate victim.

    2. Get rid of the i-phone and social media. Pick up a real phone and call someone real or just start talking to real people. Very easy fix.

    3. You found a way to make this political? Hahaha. You have issues that will cause their own physical illnesses. For you, stop.

      1. fuck fuck fuck fuck praise kek fucked my sister in the ass last night best fuck I ever had grab her by the pussy fuck feminist fuck all of them free ann frank eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

      2. The people who made health issues political are the people who got government into the health care funding loop. If you don’t want your health issues to be a matter of public politics, you need to undo what they’v done.

        1. You act like you are not part of the ‘they’. Perhaps separating yourself from everyone else is the problem. To place yourself on one side and make the other side the problem, enables the problem. It allows us to be controlled because we fight each other. It is ignorant and naive.

    4. Think of the millions upon millions of women who were convinced by feminist leftism that marriage and motherhood are not only unnecessary, they’re harmful. So those millions will spend their old age alone, and they will die alone and unremarked.

    5. I agree. Also I consider it unfair because I live on social security for all my work, and am called for help from people on welfare (mostly mothers with children and were never married) who can buy a lot more things, including food, that I can ever afford.

  31. Opposite can be hazardous as well – too many people to deal with, the games people play, hard feelings due to favors/money not returned. Solitude can be pretty inviting in many ways – and healthy too.

  32. There is no question that loneliness can lead to early deaths. When anyone is cut off from a vibrant social network (family or friends,etc.) it can have an adverse effect on the organ’s of the body and it could lesson the will to live in many individuals. What to do about loneliness should be left to the professionals, maybe they have some answers.

    1. haha. adverse effect on the organs of the body from not talking to someone? you read too many psychology books, and not enough medical ones.

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