Washington: You may prefer to be a loner, but new study says that isolation is a threat to longevity.
Julianne Holt-Lunstad, the lead study author at Brigham Young University, said that he effect of this is comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously, and people need to start taking their social relationships more seriously.
Loneliness and social isolation can look very different. For example, someone may be surrounded by many people but still feel alone. Other people may isolate themselves because they prefer to be alone. The effect on longevity, however, is much the same for those two scenarios.
The association between loneliness and risk for mortality among young populations is actually greater than among older populations. Although older people are more likely to be lonely and face a higher mortality risk, loneliness and social isolation better predict premature death among populations younger than 65 years.
Tim Smith, co-author of the study added that not only were 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. With loneliness on the rise, there was a possible loneliness epidemic in the future.
Previous research from Holt-Lunstad and Smith puts the heightened risk of mortality from loneliness in the same category as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and being an alcoholic. This current study suggests that not only is the risk for mortality in the same category as these well-known risk factors, it also surpasses health risks associated with obesity
The study appears in Perspectives on Psychological Science.