Loneliness 'as bad for your health as smoking'

Health Hub staff
Monday, August 9, 2010
Loneliness. Image: Getty

Having close friendships may be just as important for your health as quitting smoking, losing weight or taking certain medications, find US researchers.

Researchers from Young University in Utah found that people with strong relationships with friends and family were 50 percent less likely to die young than those who didn't have good social relationships, the US' MSNBC reported.

Psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad and her team analysed 148 studies of more than 300,000 people which examined social relationships and the effects on health, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.

Having little social interaction is the equivalent of being an alcoholic, more harmful than not exercising and was twice as harmful as being obese, the researchers found.

"A lack of social relationships was equivalent to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day," Holt-Lunstad told MSNBC.

Social relationships were also found to be more important for a long lifespan than getting an adult vaccine to prevent pneumonia or taking drugs for high blood pressure.

Holt-Lunstad said that the study highlights the need for governments to introduce policies which encourage social interaction in order to keep the population healthy.

"Such findings suggest that despite increases in technology and globalization that would presumably foster social connections, people are becoming increasingly more socially isolated," Holt-Lunstad said.

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User comments
I used to crave to be alone. raising children on my own and being busy with work, I would look forward to being alone. Now that I am alone (children are gone for the holidays) I realised that I really am alone. I have no real friends - only associates. I have no-one to go out with. I have no partner. I am alone, so I curl up in bed, alone, looking forward to going to work and talking with some-one although I have nothing to talk about!!?? Loneliness is sadness.
I think something should be done about how lonely people are. A support chat room, a venue, ANYTHING. My fiance is very lonely (after he allowed his ex to scare away all of his friends), and finds it difficult to talk to people. Ive seen him try time and time again, but he gets ignored like hes not even there. I dont know why people wont give him the time of day, hes such a sweet and caring person, hes just painfully shy.
I am a 50 something man separated from partner, living in my own home alone. The shock of having to leave a relationship at the request of ex-partner was a bad enough, let alone having to talk to the walls. This has caused bad depression and treatment with Loxamine drugs which has made me feel a lot better and normal. I do not do alone very well and suffering from relationship withrawal. Humans are not designed to live alone. I am considering a pet dog to keep me company - something that will love me without exception or how the way I look. At least this may improve my health.
Why oh why cant people understand this, that being lonely is BAD. I have an 82 year old Mum who over the years has helped all of her family in way or another and if at all possible will continue to do so. BUT now that she gets a little confused and doesnt agree with the new ways of living etc. no-one can be bothered to give her half an hour of their time once a week.She gets so down as she never gets visitors to her house as her "old" friends dont drive any more or they are in retirement villages. If you know some one that lives on their own, please, make a point of popping in more than once a year.
This is very true. I've seen it within my own family and I am in that position myself. Sometimes my going to work each day is the only interaction with others I have for the week. My family isn't close and I will never admit to it. I have no major health issues but depression, anxiety and stress takes its toll eventually

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