Loneliness means feeling sad and unhappy about being socially isolated. Loneliness shortens our lifespan, according to science. Twice the proportion of obesity. Yes, you’ve been reading that right.
Experts on loneliness, maintain that you are not inoculated by the amount of individuals in your lives from experiencing loneliness. Rather, that puts the brain and body at risk is the feeling of being lonely. They were comparing feeling lonely with feeling hungry. When either of them is ignored, we compromise our survival and well-being. Loneliness is also of different types.
In order to respond to our environment, we are biologically hardwired. We crave food when we experience low concentrations of blood-sugar. The sensation that our stomachs are empty is a warning sign of eating, and it is crucial for our very survival. We want to connect with others when we feel lonely, much like the loud rumble your tummy makes when it’s hungry.
A Lonely Brain Is Restless
Loneliness causes “hyper-vigilance.” That’s where your brain is searching for social threats that put us on the defensive. We become more reactive to negative events and are more stressful in perceiving daily hassles. A lonely brain often wakes up, experiences fragmented sleep and is unable to recover from the stressful events of the day. Also, a lonely brain is subject to an rise in depressive symptoms and has self-regulating trouble. That’s why you might be irritable and impulsive.
A lonely brain is also at risk of cognitive and physical decline.
More than 2,000 participants aged 65 to 86 followed a three-year study in the Netherlands. While at the beginning of the research, none of the respondents had indications of dementia, findings indicated that those who reported feeling lonely had an increase in the danger of developing dementia of 64%. When people retire from work, they also experience an increase in loneliness. That’s why you want to make sure you retire to something, and have friends outside your job.
A lonely body
Loneliness influences the body as well. Research by psychologist Stephen Suomi shows that loneliness distorts some genes ‘ expression. During their first four months of life, an experiment separating newborn primates from their mothers led in the modified growth of immune-related genes that assist the body combat viruses. Research by social psychologist Lisa Jaremka shows that lonely people have higher concentrations of activated viruses in their system and are at higher danger of chronic inflammation associated with type 2 diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and even suicide.
While obesity increases your chances of early death by 20%, loneliness increases your chances by 45%. What are we to do with an emotional state so strong that our brains can be altered, our physiology compromised and our longevity shortened?
Management Of Loneliness
1. Seek connection: Everyone needs a group to belong to.
2. Hang out with like-minded people: What are you into: video games, music, books? Joining a club is an awesome way to meet and connect with like-minded people
3. Recognize the effects of prolonged loneliness: You’re starving if you ignore hunger. The same applies to our need for membership. If you feel isolated, reach out to others.
4. Get some help: If you’ve tried a couple of these steps and are still feeling disconnected, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
Health Risks Associated With Loneliness
Loneliness has a wide range of negative effects on both physical and mental health, including:
- Depression and suicide
- Cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Increased stress levels
- Decreased memory and learning
- Antisocial behavior
- Poor decision-making
- Alcoholism and drug abuse
- The progression of Alzheimer’s disease
- Altered brain function
These are not the only places where loneliness is taking its toll. Lonely adults eat more alcohol and have less exercise than non-lonely adults. Their diet is greater in fat, their sleep is less effective, and more daytime fatigue is reported.
Loneliness also disrupts cellular process regulation deep inside the body, predisposing us to premature aging.
We are connected physiologically and psychologically.
The next time you’re feeling lonely and out of sorts, recognize it as a sign that you need to connect and seek companionship. Your body and brain will be grateful that you have done so, and you may even boost longevity.
Ochemba Callistus Chinedu is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory science and hopes to become a Medical Lab Scientist. He enjoys reading, writing, traveling, general health, and learning new things.