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Loneliness as big a killer as obesity

Loneliness as big a killer as obesity

Loneliness can lead to as many premature deaths as obesity, new research claims.

In a landmark new study, it’s been found that being isolated or living alone can significantly increase the chance of dying prematurely.

Led by Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad from Utah’s Brigham Young University, researchers conducted two study reviews to reach their conclusions. The first involved analysing 148 studies of more than 300,000 participants, with the second focusing 70 trials of more than 3.4 million people from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

“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,” Dr. Holt-Lunstad said.

From the first piece of research, it was discovered that social connections reduce the risk of an early death by 50 per cent. Meanwhile with the second review, the team found social isolation, loneliness and living alone increased the risk of premature death, equal to, or even greater than, the effect of obesity on early death.

“Affluent nations have the highest rates of individuals living alone since census data collection began and also likely have the highest rates in human history, with those rates projected to increase,” the researchers stated. "With an increasing ageing population, the effect on public health is only anticipated to increase.”

As well as people living longer, divorce rates continue to soar, meaning more people are setting up home alone.

It’s estimated that 42.6 million adults over 45 in the U.S. are lonely and one-quarter of the population also live alone, while in the U.K. nearly seven million people live by themselves, with the figure expected to rise to nearly nine million by 2039.

The research was presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, with the team suggesting social skills be taught at school and social connectedness being added as an item on doctors’ health check-up lists.

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