Loneliness: Why Experts Are Calling It A Threat To Public Health?

As per experts, loneliness has been affecting physical health and life expectancy adversely.

In recent years, experts have started to see loneliness as a threat to our physical health. Though loneliness was considered to be a psychological condition, upcoming studies are showing its humungous impact on the overall well-being of an individual. Recently, US Surgeon General Vivek H Murthy in a health advisory warned that loneliness is becoming a serious cause of concern in the States. He urged Americans to spend more time with each other in an increasingly divided society.

Loneliness can be defined as a state where one’s need for deep human connection remains unmet. It is different from being alone. A person can also experience loneliness among friends and loved ones. As per studies, people experiencing loneliness have a high risk of developing depression, anxiety, heart disease, stroke and dementia. They are also at a heightened risk of premature death. As per experts, loneliness has been affecting physical health and life expectancy adversely. Also, COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns have aggravated the effects of it on the population.

What can loneliness do to your body?

The Surgeon General in the advisory mentioned that loneliness has escalated to become a threat to public health over the years. As per a study quoted in the advisory, time spent with friends decreased by 20 hours a month since 2003. The time spent alone increased by 24 hours a month in the same period.

As per an international media outlet, feelings of chronic loneliness are associated with an increased risk of depression a year later. Loneliness is associated with stress response. It triggers the fight-or-flight system of the body. If loneliness is chronic, the affected person can remain in stress for a long period. This can further cause inflammation that is known to damage tissues and blood vessels. It can further increase the risk of chronic health conditions such as heart disease.

Loneliness is often due to a lack of meaningful connection which is why a person can still be lonely even if they are in a large social group.

Symptoms of chronic loneliness

Chronic loneliness can affect a person’s physical health. If a person has been experiencing loneliness for an extended period, they might see some of the following signs-

  1. Waiting to be perfect before you decide to socialize
  2. Not reaching out for help
  3. Decreased energy levels
  4. Unable to concentrate
  5. A tendency to get sick frequently
  6. Chronic pains
  7. Anxiety and restlessness
  8. Craving for physical warmth such as hot drinks, hot showers, cuddling soft toys and others.

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