"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Loneliness epidemic linked to cancer, dementia and other diseases

July 6, 2023 – Loneliness, once regarded as nothing greater than a eager for connection, is increasingly being recognized by doctors and scientists as something way more dangerous: it carries the danger of heart disease, dementia, certain kinds of cancer, and even death.

A growing body of research points to strong links between social isolation, or the shortage of social contact, and loneliness, the sensation of being isolated no matter human contact. Researchers have found that the danger of early death increases by 26% in socially isolated people and 14% in lonely people, in keeping with a latest study. Meta-analysis Published in Nature of human behavior.

According to a 2020 study, loneliness also increases the danger of dementia by 50%, heart disease by 29% and stroke by 32%. report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). When an individual with heart disease experiences loneliness, the danger of early death is 4 times higher and the danger of hospitalization is 68% higher.

“In recent years, people have realized that loneliness and social isolation are associated with poorer health,” said Dr. Sarah Goodlin, a geriatrician, palliative care physician and professor of medication at Oregon Health & Science University. “And it's a common condition. Even people who aren't socially isolated can feel lonely.”

Increased give attention to loneliness

In May, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy published a advisory in regards to the dangers of loneliness as a public health problem.

“Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation is an underappreciated public health crisis that has damaged individual and societal health,” he said. “Given the significant health consequences of loneliness and isolation, we must prioritize building social connections the same way we prioritize other critical public health issues such as tobacco, obesity and substance abuse.”

The American Medical Association adopted a politics last month to “fund research examining how building networks earlier in life helps reduce loneliness and social isolation in adults, with particular attention to marginalized populations and communities with limited access to resources.”

Among the groups participating within the in danger are low-income adults, young adults, older adults, individuals with chronic illnesses and disabilities, immigrants, and folks from the LGBTQ community.

The connection between loneliness and illness remains to be a mystery

Research shows Loneliness and social isolation could also be linked to higher levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals within the body: C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, and interleukin-6.

In lonely people, stress also can activate pituitary hormones within the hypothalamus, which then have a negative effect on the center, says Goodlin.

But in the meanwhile these are only potential links.

“The actual cause is only suspected – it has not been determined yet,” said Goodlin. “There are currently no answers.”

Social isolation vs. loneliness

Loneliness is the sensation of being alone or disconnected despite human contact, while social isolation means having little contact with other people and few social ties.

“Someone may seem isolated but not feel lonely and may prefer to be alone,” says Dr. Tiffani Bell Washington, a psychiatrist, public health specialist and obesity/lifestyle medicine specialist.

“Finding ways to minimize loneliness isn't just about living like a celebrity or changing your whole life or becoming an extrovert and partying all night,” she continued. “It's about your health.”

What may be done?

Although there’s an ideal deal of research into the health effects of loneliness, there’s little research into possible solutions.

The U.S. health care reimbursement system will not be designed to treat loneliness as a health problem, says Goodlin, so even when doctors did raise the difficulty during routine checkups, there can be few opportunities for intervention.

But some researchers are starting to analyze how people address feelings of loneliness. study Published in Leisure Sciences Last 12 months, two particularly vulnerable populations were studied – international students and nursing home residents through the COVID-19 pandemic – and located that activities requiring focus and engagement reduced feelings of loneliness, even within the face of isolation.

“Loneliness is not as strong when we engage in activities that are meaningful to us and give us the opportunity to be authentic,” says Dr. John Dattilo, a professor within the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Management at Pennsylvania State University and co-author of the study.

Researchers have found that point passes more quickly and loneliness decreases when individuals are immersed in an activity that challenges them and results in the event of their skills.

“One of the first steps is to understand ourselves. What gives us joy?” says Dattilo. “People get used to a routine, a pattern, and do things out of a sense of duty rather than joy. Being aware of yourself is one of the first steps.”