A team of scientists underlined and argued that there is a far greater burden to the public health than obesity. They stated that social isolation and loneliness are a bigger threat to the health than believed, as they also connected them to higher risks of premature death.
This research and its findings were presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the APA, the American Psychological Associations. According to the study, more and more adult Americans are feeling alone and that this trend is likely to grow. Some are even looking at this as an alarm signal against a loneliness epidemic.
A Loneliness Epidemic, an Impending Problem?
The study based its preliminary results on data collected by a national survey in the United States. According to this, some 42.6 million people over the age of 45 living in the U.S. suffer from loneliness. The same survey found that over a quarter of the U.S. population lives alone, and that marriage rates are falling.
“Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need – crucial to both well-being and survival,” states Julianne Holt-Lunstad. “Yet an increasing portion of the U.S. population now experiences isolation regularly,” she continues.
Holt-Lunstad is a Brigham Young University professor of psychology. Together with her colleagues, they carried out two meta analyses.
One of them analyzed the results of results of 148 previous studies which involved more than 300,000 participants. Through this, they discovered that a greater social connection could be tied to a 50 percent lower risks of premature death.
The second meta analyses included more than 70 studies and 3.4 million people. These were mainly from North America, but European, Asian, and Australian participants were included as well.
The study team tried to assess whether loneliness, living alone and social isolation, might have an impact on mortality. According to the results, all of them did, in an equal and significant amount. Their effects reportedly exceed even the premature death risks tied to obesity.
The researchers also pointed out that some nations themselves said that this is possibly becoming a loneliness epidemic. So scientists are now facing a challenge, that of finding a solution to this problem.
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