Feeling cut off is as bad for you as smoking
The negative effects of loneliness on health are as bad as obesity or smoking, a psychologist has warned.
Feeling alone can lead to increased blood pressure, a weakened immune system and insomnia, the American Association for the Advancement of Science‘s conference was told.
Professor John Cacioppo, a psychologist, said that feeling lonely can lead to a rise in cortisol, a stress hormone, and increase blood pressure, leading to strokes and heart attacks. High levels of cortisol can also suppress the immune system, putting people at increased risk of disease.
In a study, Prof Cacioppo found that blood pressure in the loneliest people was 30 points higher than the most socially active, making them three times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. The difference in risk is similar to that between smokers and non-smokers, or the obese and those of normal weight.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, Prof Cacioppo said ‘We are increasingly living in isolation. Partly because we are ageing, also because we are marrying later and having fewer children there are fewer confidantes and levels of loneliness are going up.’
He said it is better to have a few strong friendships than many acquaintances. ‘Lonely people feel a hunger,’ he said. ‘The key is to realise that the solution lies not in being fed but in cooking for and enjoying a meal with others.’