Over the years, a number of studies have been conducted on the mental and emotional health risks of loneliness and social isolation. Many have shown that these are associated with an increased risk of mortality and morbidity. They are also associated with an increased risk of faster cognitive decline, along with developing health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression.
Loneliness can have a negative impact on memory, especially in older adults. A study of more than 8,000 adults over the age of 65 found that those who reported feeling lonely had a faster rate of cognitive decline.
The study found that having regular contact with friends and family motivated older adults to be more physically active, which helps them to reach their exercise goals. Although loneliness increases our risk of mortality, it doesn’t mean we should be worried about it all the time.
As a society, we are increasingly disconnected from one another. We spend most of our time alone in our homes and our mobile devices, leaving little time for social interaction. The negative impacts of social isolation have been well-studied, but the benefits have been much less investigated.
What can you do?
Staying connected with others may help boost your mood and improve your overall well-being. Stay in touch with family and friends in person or over the phone. Scheduling time each day to connect with others can help you maintain connections. Meet new people by taking a class to learn something new or hone a skill you already have.
The growing body of research on the health benefits of connectedness provides an opportunity to connect with others in a new way and experience the numerous health benefits that come with it.