Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Loneliness May Be Hazardous To Your Health

Social isolation and loneliness is a major contributing factor in all kinds of illnesses. A famous study exposed paid volunteers to a cold virus and then recorded how many actually came down with symptoms. It was found that those who described themselves as more lonely or isolated were far more likely to get sick. Other studies have shown that loneliness increases the risk of heart disease and cancer and reduces the life expectancy of those already diagnosed. A recent article in Science News reported that people who live alone are 50% more likely to develop dementia than others and that those who live alone and have no friends are 60% more at risk. It is my opinion that loneliness is probably more dangerous than smoking, lack of exercise and poor diet combined and there are some physicians who are beginning to agree.

Dr Dean Ornish became famous for his multi-faceted program for recovery from heart disease. It included a very strict diet, exercise, meditation and support group participation. He had tremendous results and assumed that the most important factors were the exercise and diet plans. However, his follow-up research did not bear this out. In his most recent book Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy he writes that he is now convinced that, although diet and exercise is important to the success of his program, the single most effective factor seems to be the support group. People who feel loved and cared for thrive.

It is theorized that having only one strong social bond isn't as effective as having a variety of social relationships which is why a support group can be so effective. Strong family relationships or church and community ties are equally helpful. So my question to you all today is: how are your friendships and social ties? Is there a way they could be strengthened? Are there social activities you would like to try but keep putting off? Make social activity a priority and see how it affects your life. It's well worth the effort over time.

From my book The Spiritual Journey of Family Caregiving, available directly from me for $14.95 plus shipping.

1 comment:

SJ said...

We have some people who like to be lonely and we have some that do not, who cannot help themselves. It is depressing how this world we live in treat people. Some of us look for love from others and never receive it. We are supposed to love each other and be a comfort to the lonely ones, but we are not doing it.