Loneliness and Health

They say that misery loves company. It turns out that company can reduce misery, because loneliness can have a striking impact on your health.  Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but extended periods of loneliness can lead to a number of physical and mental problems.

Loneliness, feeling disconnected from others, is not the same as being alone.  It is possible to feel lonely while surrounded by crowds (just ask any college freshman). Conversely, being physically isolated from people does not necessary trigger feelings of loneliness.  Recent research has found that loneliness can cause reduced cognitive function, will power and mental toughness.  Other studies have placed loneliness on par with obesity and smoking. The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is twice as high among the population that describes themselves as chronically lonely.

Different people have varying thresholds of human interaction required to quell feelings of loneliness. Outgoing personalities (extroverts) need far more people time than introverts.  No two people have exactly the same needs, but a study at the University of Chicago found that loneliness leads to depression, high blood pressure, impaired immune systems, sleeplessness and an increased desire to consume food, alcohol and drugs.

Modern society, with an increased focus on the individual and electronic connections, is exacerbating the problem of loneliness.  The basic human need for connection with others cannot be satisfied by an Instant Messaging session or an afternoon on Facebook.  Somewhat paradoxically, today’s constant level of communication can actually increase feelings of isolation and loneliness.  As someone feels isolated, they can pull away from normal interactions and develop anxiety disorders or agoraphobia.

Dealing with loneliness can be difficult.  Merely being around other people is not enough. It is the quality of the human interactions, not the quantity, that leads to feeling connected to others.  Battling loneliness requires resolve and the determination to break out of negative behaviors and habits.  Joining a new group, taking up a new hobby, finding a workout buddy, or jumping into any other setting for high quality personal interaction can do wonders for battling loneliness.

Are you ready for a new buddy but don’t know where to start?  Check out WannaBuddy.com to find people near you who enjoy some of the same activities as you. There is no reason not to meet new friends and enjoy an active life!

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