Loneliness: A Virtue or a Threat?

Loneliness feels terrible. While some research suggests that loneliness is an artform and necessary skill for survival in life, new science states that loneliness can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Comparing loneliness to health risks like diabetes and obesity, the argument for loneliness is that it needs to be taken much more seriously. Loneliness is a pervasive issue- it can be experienced at any age, in any geographic location. 40% of adults report feeling lonely. Certain age groups feel lonely, and people in city dwellings feel lonely as well.

Is Loneliness a Virtue or a Threat?

Isolation is a dangerous combination with other mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Addiction and alcoholism can be marked by long periods of isolation. In early recovery, it is advocated to avoid isolating as much as possible. Indeed, research has shown that staying social, as opposed to isolating, will lead to better health and a longer life.

In a digital world where everyone is connected to everything, there is growing concern regarding the harm of social media. Study after study finds that social media is a leading contributor to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Spending time on social media can make us feel connected to our distant friends and family. Actually spending our time on social media, instead of with physical people in real-time, depresses us. Amount of time spent on social media has a direct correlation with life satisfaction. More time equals less satisfaction. Yet, we continue to engage. Ever increasing our feelings of disconnect, we put more and more risk on our health.

Health risks posed by loneliness are so severe that some health professionals are moving to have it recognized as a chronic illness. Feelings are chemical reactions in the mind. When the brain releases chemicals, they don’t just disappear after their feeling has been felt. By law of physics, energy created has to be used. Those chemicals get released into our bodies and don’t always have the most positive effects.

Some adverse reactions to loneliness include:

 

  • Inflammation: lonely people react to stress by releasing a certain inflammatory protein. They are more likely to develop inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.

 

  • Cardiac Issues: a heart can actually be broken by loneliness. Loneliness causes fear and anxiety. These stressors can cause heart diseases and stroke.
  • Dementia: chronic feelings of loneliness causes a 64% higher likelihood of developing dementia
  • Obesity: loneliness causes lethargy and depression, which are not high motivators for physical activity. As a result, loneliness contributes to obesity, which can pose risks like diabetes.
  • Dying Prematurely: feeling alone and being alone increases chance of premature death by upwards of 30%

 

Finding Fellowship and Community is critical for combating loneliness. Sound Recovery Solutions believes in the power of the local community. We immerse our patients into the local recovery community and encourage new relationships. Our treatment programs for men create belonging, family, and trust. For more information call (561) 666-7427

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