Although loneliness is something we all have to deal with at times, does chronic loneliness lead to serious health risks? A new article published in Health Psychology suggests that might be the case, especially over the long run.
A team of researchers at the Ohio State College of Medicine and the National Cancer Institude conducted two studies looking at the long term effects of loneliness on survival. Loneliness, defined as the experience of perceived social isolation, has long been linked to various medical concerns, including heart disease. In terms of relative survival, loneliness appears to be as great a health risk as being obese and inactive. Even when other medical problems are controlled for, the effect of loneliness on health is extreme.
The two studies focused on the effect of lonelines on the depression, chronic pain, and fatigue symptom cluster found in a wide range of chronic medical conditions. These three symptoms are often found together since they are mutually reinforcing and can lower quality of life and long-term survival. According to research, lonely people seem especially prone to developing depression, pain, and fatigue over time. Based on the middle-range theory of unpleasant symptoms, these unpleasant symptoms have a joint impact on long-term health outcomes.
To read ore, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.