Medical Moment: The health effects of loneliness

Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 6:09 PM EST
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(WNDU) - High blood pressure, heart disease, depression, even early death. These are all the risks of smoking, but surprisingly, loneliness can also have the same effects.

New research shows that as many as a third of Americans feel seriously lonely. Researchers found these negative emotions speed up the biological clocks more than cigarettes!

“The effect of social isolation and loneliness on our health is as powerful as things like smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity,” said Richard Schwartz, MD, a psychiatrist.

Being in a constant state of loneliness increases inflammation and, in turn, can raise the risk of several other diseases. A study from Florida State University found that loneliness can increase dementia risk by 40 percent.

But researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that the more positive social interactions a person had during the day, the more purposeful and the less lonely they felt. You can get those interactions by joining groups with similar interests, like a hiking group, an art class, or a fitness club.

They also say a simple call can also go a long way.

Dec. 28 is National Call a Friend Day, so call and reach out to your loved ones if you can’t be there. It can benefit their mental and physical health.

Having friends can make you live longer.

An analysis of 148 studies found that those with stronger social relationships had a 50 percent higher chance of living an average of 7.5 years more than those without.