Study: Loneliness Increases The Risk of Premature Death

Life & Love | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 02/19/2014 | 12:00 AM EST

According to new research, feelings of solitude can be just as fatal for older people than other factors like socioeconomic disadvantage

No one likes to feel lonely, and apparently it can send you right to the grave, depending on your age.

According to research conducted by a professor at the University of Chicago extreme loneliness can increase an older person's risk of premature death by 14 percent. Extreme loneliness has become as dangerous as socioeconomic disadvantage, which is known to cause an increase of 19 percent in risk of early death.

Such research mirrors a 2010 study that found that loneliness has twice the impact on early death as obesity does. But such findings primarily affects elderly people, who are often widows, widowers or are with little family and friends.

Loneliness can have profound health consequences for older people. Disrupted sleep, elevated blood pressure, increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increased depression are all reported in people experiencing extreme loneliness. This can also cause problems for the body's immune system and generally lower overall feelings of well-being.

Those who are more “socially resilient,” however, are more likely to live longer. It’s suggested that people maintain healthy relationships to avoid the pitfalls of loneliness by staying connected and having as much face-to-face interaction with others, as opposed to staying cramped up within the four walls of one’s home.

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