Does Loneliness Really Put You At Higher Risk for Premature Death?

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Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

No one likes feeling lonely, but recent research suggests that loneliness could be more devastating than just an unpleasant emotion. Psychologist John Cacioppo, director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, as well as his colleagues, found that loneliness can increase one’s chances of dying early by 14 percent, and his study joins ongoing research conducted by Angelique Chan, associate professor at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School at the National University of Singapore. For the past five years, Chan has been tracking a nationally representative sample of 5,000 people over the age of 60 in Singapore to study the association between loneliness and risk of death, and the two teams of researchers have recognized notable overlaps in their findings.

Cacioppo’s study was highlighted by USA Today in mid-March when the psychologist explained that he reviewed survey responses from more than 2,100 adults 55 and older, controlling for age, gender, socioeconomic status, social isolation, and poor health behaviors. He and his colleagues’ research is ongoing, but so far they have found that loneliness can lead to sleep problems, raise blood pressure, increase the stress hormone cortisol, increase depression, and reduce feelings of living a meaningful life. Cacioppo explained via USA Today that, ”Having high-quality relationships with a few people is one of the keys to happiness and longevity. The stresses of life are more easily endured if we can share them with someone in whom we can confide and trust.”

Cacioppo’s findings alone focused more of a spotlight on loneliness and the impact of the state of emotions last month, and that light was turned on again this week when Chan’s research was reported by the South Morning China Post, drawing out similarities between the two studies.

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