Like it or not, we all need human companions to survive; we need our families, friends to survive as our relationships are very important for not only our emotional fulfilment but also out behavioural adjustment and our cognitive functions.
Relationships foster values or selflessness, cooperation, empathy but what happens when one is isolated from people? We all feel lonely at some point in their lives, but chronic loneliness is when one goes for days and months without experiencing meaningful human contact and this is a bigger killer than obesity itself.
Apart from the deep sense of sadness it loneliness creates, chronic loneliness can also be life-threatening. Below are some of the health repercussions of living a lonely life.
Depression: “Among the mental effects of loneliness is depression, studies suggest that socially isolated individuals, especially young ones are at risk for developing depression; although the prevalence of depression can differ with different age groups, the link between loneliness and depression remains stable and apart from triggering depressive episodes, loneliness causes low self-esteem and can also increase perceived stress, fear of negative evaluation, anxiety, anger, pessimism”.
Poor sleep: “Sleep deprivation is yet another repercussion of chronic loneliness and as sleep suffers, the restorative functions of sleep like repairing tissues, promoting muscle growth, synthesising protein and releasing growth hormones are all impaired”.
Dementia: “The elderly experience sadness and emotional distress when their children grow up and leave home, so, chronic loneliness is quite common among the old ones; the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia doubles in senior citizens of normal health undergoing chronic loneliness”.
Cardiovascular issues: “There also seems to a dose-response relationship of loneliness with cardiovascular health risk in young adults; their heart health risks proportionately increased according to their level of isolation, loneliness is also associated with increased systolic blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and chances of obesity”,
Increased risk of death: “Loneliness precipitates a host of health problems, resulting from diminished sleep, impaired cardiovascular health and general malaise; it is a well-established fact that loneliness increases morbidity and mortality, research indicates that the risk of death resulting from social isolation is comparable to the risks associated with smoking and alcohol consumption”.
Psychoses: “It is established that feeling lonely can have an impact on a person’s mental well-being but studies also point to a connection between chronic loneliness and development of problems such as psychosis which makes them lose connection with reality”.