Americans are increasingly becoming more isolated, and public health experts are concerned.
In the United States, about a quarter of the population lives alone. Marriage rates and the number of kids per U.S. household are also dropping, according to census data. Now, research presented this month at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association underlines the connection between loneliness and a premature death.
At the convention, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, presented evidence from two meta-analyses on the effects of social connection on health. The first analysis looked at 148 studies involving more than 300,000 people and found that people with social connections had a 50% lower risk of dying early compared to people who did not have strong social circles. The other analysis of 70 studies found that loneliness, isolation, and living alone all had a significant effect on a person’s risk for early death. The researchers suggested that the impact was similar to the effect that obesity has on mortality rates.
“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” Holt-Lunstad said in a statement about the research.