Study finds link between loneliness, poor health

By Salena Von
Staff Writer

A lone tree in a wide field

(Photo by Indy Kethdy from Flickr.com)

Loneliness is usually perceived as an emotion that arises when someone does not have any friends or relationships. But recent research from John Cacioppo of University of Chicago shows, “the effects of social isolation or rejection are as real as thirst, hunger, or pain.” Loneliness is so serious that Cacioppo suggests that it might actually alter gene expression—where the body prepares for assaults which increases stress and aging.

This effect can increase other troubles for the body, including heart disease. It is shown that loneliness increased the risk of early death by 45 percent and the risk of developing dementia by 64 percent later in life. On the contrary, people who had strong relationships were shown to have a 50 percent lower risk of dying at any given time (be grateful for your friends, they’re basically saving your life).

Loneliness occurs when an event takes a toll on our mental being. Maybe you moved to a new city, or maybe you’ve even started college, or you’re facing the pressures of finally becoming a mature adult; whatever it is, we all somehow made it through. Some, however, are not able to get out of that mindset. This is when loneliness becomes critical. This is where someone cannot move on and is in this dull place in their mind. What this person needs is intimate relationships—not in the romantic sense, but the ones with the really deep connection.

Do not be troubled about this finding—loneliness is an emotion in all of us. We all experience it at some point in our lives, some more than others. It is there when we feel at our lowest, or when we have nothing left to hang on to, but there are ways to help with this. If you know anyone that seems lonely, try spending time with them and make them feel that they have someone to talk to. You’ll soon start to see that they’ll slowly open up to you and eventually thank you for providing them with much-needed company.

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