More lonely people are in danger of becoming sick than those who are obese. This has been suggested by the American Psychological Association (APA), based on a study. results of which found that lonely and socially isolated people recorded higher rates of disease.

It’s a problem that could become an even bigger threat than obesity for the public in the future, the APA noted, in its presentation during the 125th Annual Convention.

“Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need, crucial to both well-being and survival,” Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at the Brigham Young University, said.

Researchers found that Infants in custodial care, who lack of human contact, could fail to thrive and die.

“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,” she said.

Holt-Lunstad noted that in their two meta-analyses, the first one - which involved 148 studies and 300,000 participants - determined that the more people interact with one another, the greater they reduce their risk for dying early by 50 percent.

The second, which had 70 studies and 3.4 million individuals from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, studied how social isolation, loneliness or living alone affected premature death risk, and found that all three had significant effect.

In the United States, from 42.6 million adults over the age of 45 suspected to be suffering from loneliness, a fourth of the population live alone, more than half is unmarried and the number of children have declined, which suggest that many in America are becoming less socially connected and might be experiencing loneliness.

To counter loneliness, the researchers suggest that assessing for social connectedness should be included in medical evaluations and that social connectedness should be taught in schools.

Additionally, ageing individuals should be considered, urging them to prepare for retirement, not just in financial terms but also socially. This could be through addition of community garden and frequent gatherings in recreation centres. MIMS

Read more:

Helping dementia patients adjust to nursing homes
3 signs in elderly patients that should set off alarm bells for HCPs