The world is pretty much in agreement that being a smoker is pretty bad, regardless of how serious of a smoking problem you have. But loneliness, a study has found out, is much worse. So bad is the crippling weight of social isolation that smoking over 15 cigarettes a day is much better than wallowing in loneliness.
As a matter of fact, loneliness was discovered to be much worse than even physical inactivity, and even air pollution. One of the lead experts in the study, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, concluded that loneliness is as serious as obesity. I think we all understand how serious obesity is as a global health crisis.
The most alarming fact is that there are more than 40 million Americans over the age of 45 struggling with chronic loneliness. For this reason, loneliness should be taken as seriously as other chronic health issues that have made public health status to take a nosedive in the last couple of years.
The study comparing loneliness to smoking was done by Brigham Young University in 2015, and more than 3 million people were involved in the data collection.
While on one hand it was discovered that loneliness was worse for you than smoking, on another hand, it was discovered that people who are not lonely not only evade the adverse health effects of loneliness but also go on to experience a 50% reduction in risk of premature death.
Unfortunately, dealing with loneliness and social isolation is easier said than done when the number of one-person households stood at 28% according to the 2016 Census. Also, only about the same percentage of households have children; and the rest don't. This means that the risk of loneliness and social isolation is much more serious than most people think.
But why doesn't loneliness get more attention if it is such a big health issue? According to Dr Nasreen Khatri, the problem might be that loneliness is still a very obscure term.
But whatever the case, loneliness does not have to be the situation that ruins your health. You can avoid loneliness and isolation by spending time around other people. There are a number of benefits to having a healthy social life.
For one, these connections can lower stress level hormones, and promote a healthier lifestyle that results in improved wellbeing.
Another way to deal with loneliness is to have a hobby that makes your life more meaningful. Having a pet can also help, especially in cases where the possible loneliness victim is suffering from limited mobility.
Although the government needs to step in and help stall the negative impacts of loneliness, some positive response is being seen in some quarters.
For instance, in Ontario, the Liberal Party is funding programs that help reduce social isolation among the elderly.
That is definitely a step in the right direction, but the government can do more to help people dealing with isolation. With some funding, programs to assist people whose health would be affected by this problem can be set up within the society.
A lot of people want longevity out of their lives, but they are not willing to give up social connections to get it. And so, a lot more effort needs to be put into making loneliness and isolation less rampant within our society.