Health dangers of loneliness
We all feel lonely from time to time, but if you find yourself feeling lonely and isolated most days, your health could be at risk. Feeling isolated can raise your risk for early death by as much as 60 percent.
Lonely individuals experience significantly more stress than those who don’t feel lonely, and this leads to inflammation, raising their risk for heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and even dementia. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a link between loneliness and a higher level of amyloid in the brain. Having more amyloid in the brain is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Here are another 10 treatable causes of dementia.
Not sure if you’re at risk? Check out these 9 warning signs that you’re lonely and it’s hurting your heart.
Why we need friendships
While the loneliness risks sound scary, they are reversible. The New York Times reports that research indicates individuals with strong relationships are 50 percent more likely to outlive than those who don’t have close, reliable friends. Having stable friendships lowers our risk of high blood pressure, depression, and obesity.
Close friendships provide the support people need as they navigate new phases of life. “Having other people alongside you on similar walks of life is key. If it weren’t for my business besties, I would have quit a long time ago” says Kate Crocco, a confidence coach and licensed therapist in New York. “Because of their similar experiences, the power of ‘I get it, I’ve been there’ has kept me going.”
How to start cultivating connections
If making true connections has felt like a struggle in the past, know that small actions add up. Psychologist Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD recommends first becoming aware of the lonely feelings. “Acknowledge your loneliness and choose to continue being aware of it,” Dr. Becker-Phelps wrote in Psychology Today. Remember that everyone has lonely feelings sometimes and that it is safe to reach out for connection. Try starting with one of these 17 little things you can do to connect with others.