Loneliness is as Deadly as Smoking or Obesity

You read that right! And isn’t it fascinating that researchers and physicians are finding lonely persons more likely to suffer from an early death than that of smokers or obesity. A recent article from researchers at Brigham Young University found that social isolation increases your risk of death by nearly 30% and other studies claim as much as 60% increased risk. Loneliness has a greater negative impact on our health than does obesity, smoking, exercise, or nutrition.

You may think that you are safe but how much time have you spent today connecting on an emotional level with someone? In our more primal and not-so-distant past, people survived in tribes, packs, groups, or multi-generations under the same roof. Just a generation or so ago we found people staying relatively close to home or where they grew up for most of their lives. Thanks to the ease of travel and a wider range of social connections, we now see people moving hundreds or thousands of miles away from the “tribe” they grew up. Family of origins are spread from coast to coast and are seldom found on the same street or even in the same town.

Loneliness has very real physical side effects: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical ailments such as chronic pain, and many other nagging symptoms are being linked to social isolation. When we are socially isolated and feeling lonely the brain begins to shut down and go into self-preservation, meaning that the ability to reason goes out the window. Your brain is registering all of the deep emotions of the loneliness and your brain shuts all other systems down in attempt to get you to “fix” the loneliness. Many people report inability to sleep or eat, exercise becomes impossible, and that “yucky” feeling is ever present in their life. After a prolonged period of time the effects of loneliness result in early death due to the strain and pressure we put on our bodies.   

So yes, loneliness can kill you. Do something about it and start to connect with others and this does not mean texting someone or scrolling through Facebook. It means picking up the phone and calling someone you love. It means shutting off the electronics and having a meaningful conversation with your spouse or partner. It means getting down on the floor and playing with your children. It means taking cookies to the neighbor for no reason at all. If you are finding it difficult to connect with others, there are lots of ways to help but one great place to start is with a full medical evaluation from your physician. Have a full blood workup done to check all of your levels and determine a course of action with your physician. If you are trying to figure out a way to break this cycle, chatting with a professional is a good place to start. At Cache Valley Counseling we can help you get the process started. And the next time you are bored and want to pick up your phone and check out Facebook, put it down, go outside, and have a meaningful conversation with someone...or better yet get that person and go enjoy a hike, here are a few of my little families favorite local hikes 

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