Loneliness and Mortality Risk

by | Oct 16, 2017


A study in 2015 out of BYU found that when people either (a) were lonely or isolated, or (b) felt lonely or isolated (even if they had many apparent social connections) they had an increased risk of death of 26-32%.  Wow. We are social animals and lack of social connection is harmful.

The researchers found that the results of loneliness was consistent “across gender, length of follow-up, and world region, but initial health status has an influence on the findings.” Interestingly, loneliness was more predictive of early death in those under age 65 than those 65 or older.

This is an important finding suggesting that loneliness (whether objective or subjective) produces mortality risk comparable with other, more well-established risk factors such as obesity and smoking.

Unfortunately, loneliness and isolation are on the rise. “Not only are we at the highest recorded rate of living alone across the entire century, but we’re at the highest recorded rates ever on the planet,” said Tim Smith, co-author of the study. Changes in modern life over the past decades creating greater loneliness include:  having a few number of children leads to smaller families; families are increasingly spread across greater distances geographically than prior generations, and the rise of the internet and social media may lead to greater contacts among people but they are usually much more superficial than actual face-to-face contact.


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