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Impact of Loneliness on Health

Impact of Loneliness on Health

According to several studies, the impact of loneliness on health is worse than smoking and obesity. It can be dangerous and can cause irreversible consequences. Here, we shall find out how it affects one's health.
PsycholoGenie Staff
Loneliness is one of the various emotions faced by a normal human being. But like any other emotion, it affects one's health to a great extent. Human beings are social animals and socializing with other people is a part of their nature. While some people are more social, having a great group of people to communicate with, there are some who are reserved and like to be in their own world. But this doesn't mean that the people who are reserved are lonely. Loneliness is altogether a very different feeling which can be experienced at different situations and under different conditions. Though it is one of the most commonly experienced feelings, chronic loneliness can take you to some serious consequences. It can affect both the emotional and physical health of a person. Hence, let's explore its ill effects.

How Does Loneliness Affect Health

Being physically alone does not mean that the person is going through a feeling of loneliness. In fact, loneliness can be felt even in the presence of many people. Loneliness is the perception of being alone. It is actually a state of mind in which a person feels empty and unwanted and even finds it difficult to make contact with other people. Some face this problem under some conditions like, when they move to a new location, death of their loved ones, a breakup or divorce, fights, etc., whereas some go through this because of low self-esteem, lack of confidence, etc. Whatever the conditions may be, they all directly affect your health. There have been many studies done in this regard. According to John Cacioppo, a social psychologist from the University of Chicago, there are many negative changes which occur in cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems in a lonely person and it even increases the mortality. Following are some of the points which will tell you about the negative impact that loneliness can have on an individual.

Cardiovascular Problems
According to Dr. Hawkley, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, loneliness has a deep relationship with blood pressure. It has been found that people who are affected with the feeling of chronic loneliness show high blood pressure. This research was based on 229 people who were between 50 to 68 years of age. In this 5-year study, Dr. Hawkley found that the people who were affected with loneliness showed 10% higher blood pressure than their other socially contented counterparts. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and impaired kidney function. Hence, it can be life-threatening.

Mental Health
As we have discussed that loneliness depends upon the person's perception, it is also related to the psychological health of the person. It gives the person a feeling of isolation which may result in anxiety and stress. Loneliness and depression go hand in hand and clinical depression may also cause nervous breakdown. In chronic conditions, it may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease or may induce suicidal thoughts. The person starts believing that he is of no use to the world which affects his morale and self-confidence. Poor way of making decisions, memory loss, irritability, violent mood swings, behavioral changes, etc., are some of the effects of loneliness on mental health. These conditions directly affect the personal and professional life of an individual. These psychological problems also affect the person's appetite, which may have an impact on his/her health.

Genetic Effects
According to a UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) study, the feeling of loneliness alters the activities of the genes, which causes inflammation, which is the first response of the immune system. It also suppresses the functions of other genes related to the immune system, which are involved in antiviral responses and antibody production. So, we can say that the feeling of loneliness alters the function of our immune system which makes us susceptible to many diseases.

Disturbed Sleep
Tension, stress, depression and a sense of isolation, all directly affect our sleep. Even if the person affected with chronic loneliness sleeps for the same time span as any other person, he will experience a disturbed sleep. Proper sleep is a necessity for our body to function normally. Poor quality of sleep affects us not only physically but also psychologically or mentally. A person with less or poor quality sleep is always dull and experiences fatigue and stress.

Aging
Loneliness gives rise to many health problems like stress, depression, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, etc., and all these contribute to early aging. Poor quality sleep is the major cause for early aging.

As loneliness is a feeling and a common emotion among human beings, you need to overcome it before it starts causing harm to your health. Find happiness in what you have, instead of thinking about what you don't have or what you've lost. Make new friends, communicate with people, explore new places, help the needy, and you will see happiness will replace loneliness. Trust yourself and banish loneliness from your life.