What Loneliness Does to the Human Body by Ashley Fetters
(Link): What Loneliness Does to the Human Body By Ashley Fetters
…When researchers study loneliness, they tend to define it as “the perceived discrepancy between one’s desired level of social connection and their actual level of social connection,” says Brigham Young University psychology and neuroscience professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad.
Some people who are socially isolated don’t necessarily feel lonely, and some people who are lonely are surrounded by people who make them feel more alienated, not less.
But 9 million lonely people probably aren’t just a damper on the national morale; they’re likely to be a strain on national productivity and health-care systems, too.
The bodies of lonely people are markedly different from the bodies of non-lonely people.
Prolonged loneliness, Holt-Lunstad says, “can put one at risk for chronic health conditions, exacerbate various health conditions, and ultimately put us at increased risk for premature mortality.” The bodies of lonely people are more likely to have:
High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Loneliness, it turns out, is bad for both your figurative heart and your literal one. As Holt-Lunstad points out, feeling lonely can make our environments feel just plain unsafe or unfriendly, which — as most of us have gleaned just by being alive and sometimes feeling acutely, anxiously alone — can make our heart rates faster and our blood pressures go up.
Those cardiovascular effects are frequently attributed to cortisol, the “stress hormone,” and studies of loneliness have shown lonely people have consistently elevated levels of cortisol. Which can contribute to other sorts of problems…
Reduced immunity. Lonely people can also be more susceptible to illness. …
Poor sleep. When the NIH conducted its loneliness study in 2002, researchers found in their labs what stressed-out, lonesome-feeling people have found in their bedrooms for centuries: Lonely people took longer to fall asleep than non-lonely people, slept for a shorter time, and had “greater daytime dysfunction.”
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