Loneliness & Social Isolation: Threats to Public Health

**This is a synopsis of an article published in Medical News Today

Social isolation is defined as the lack of contact and connection with other individuals. Loneliness is the feeling of being disconnected from others, even in their presence.

How dangerous is it to feel isolated and lonely? Very dangerous, according to a new study. 

Recently, two new meta-analyses from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah revealed that loneliness and social isolation may increase the risk of premature death by up to 50 percent, making social isolation and loneliness a bigger health threat than obesity in the United States. 

The first meta-analysis included more than 300,000 adults across 148 studies; the second included 70 studies involving more than 3.4 million adults. The data from the first meta-analysis showed “the risk of premature death was 50 percent lower for adults who had a greater connection with others, compared with those who were socially isolated.”  In the second meta-analysis, the researchers found that living alone, loneliness and social isolation were connected with an increased risk of early death and caused an equal to or greater risk of premature death than obesity and other severe health conditions.

“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 study co-author Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at BYU, and colleagues recently presented their findings at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, held in Washington, D.C.

What can we do about the ‘loneliness epidemic’? 

Prof. Holt-Lunstad suggests offering more resources to prevent loneliness and isolation within our communities, by offering social skills training for school-aged children and requiring doctors to discuss social connectedness with their patients during medical screenings. She also recommends that during financial planning for retirement, adults consider planning for social connectedness as well, in order to maintain a sense of community and purpose. 

Read the full article here.

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