No Soulmate? See How Bad Loneliness Can Affect Your Health

Loneliness is a human emotion that is both complex and unique to each individual. Because it has no single common cause, the prevention and treatment of this potentially damaging state of mind can vary dramatically.

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For example, a lonely child who struggles to make friends at school has different needs from a lonely old man whose wife recently died. In order to understand loneliness, it’s important to take a closer look at exactly what we mean by the term “lonely,” as well as the various causes, health consequences, symptoms, and potential treatments for loneliness.
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We all feel lonely at some point in our lives, but chronic loneliness is when one goes for days and months without experiencing meaningful human contact and this, is a bigger killer than obesity itself. Like it or not, we all need human companions to survive. We need our families, friends and acquaintances to survive as our relationships are very important for not only our emotional fulfillment but also out behavioral adjustment and our cognitive functions.

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Relationships foster values, selflessness, cooperation and empathy, but what happens when one is isolated from people? Apart from the deep sense of sadness loneliness creates, chronic loneliness can also be life-threatening and has lots of repercussions. Below are some of the health repercussions of living a lonely life:

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1. Depression
Depression is one of the mental effects of loneliness. Studies suggest that socially isolated individuals, especially young ones are at risk of developing depression. Although the prevalence of depression can differ with different age groups, the link between loneliness and depression remains stable and apart from triggering depressive episodes, loneliness causes low self-esteem and can also increase perceived stress, fear of negative evaluation, anxiety, anger, pessimism, etc.

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2. Poor Sleep
Sleep deprivation is yet another repercussion of chronic loneliness and as sleep suffers, the restorative functions of sleep like repairing tissues, promoting muscle growth, synthesizing protein and releasing growth hormones are all impaired.

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3. Dementia
The elderly experience sadness and emotional distress when their children grow up and leave home, so, chronic loneliness is quite common among old people. The risk of Alzheimer’s dementia doubles in senior citizens of normal health undergoing chronic loneliness.

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4. Cardiovascular Issues

There also seems to be a dose-response relationship of loneliness with cardiovascular health risk in young adults. Their heart’s health risks proportionately increases according to their level of isolation. Loneliness is also associated with increased systolic blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and chances of obesity.

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5. Increased Risk of Death

Loneliness precipitates a host of health problems, resulting from diminished sleep, impaired cardiovascular health and general malaise. It is a well-established fact that loneliness increases morbidity and mortality. Research also indicates that the risk of death resulting from social isolation is comparable to the risks associated with smoking and alcohol consumption.

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6. Psychoses
It has been established that feeling lonely can have an impact on a person’s mental well-being but studies also point to a connection between chronic loneliness and development of problems such as psychosis which makes them lose connection with reality.

But then, all hope is not loss because loneliness can be overcome, even though, it does require a conscious effort on your part to make a change. Making a change, in the long run, can make you happier, healthier and enable you to impact others around you in a positive way. Here are some ways to prevent loneliness.

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When you’re feeling lonely, you need to recognize that it is a sign that something needs to change. You also need to understand the effects loneliness has on your life, both physically and mentally. Consider engaging in exercises or any other activity that you enjoy. Situations like this present great opportunities to meet people and cultivate new friendships and social interactions.
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And then, you need to focus on developing quality relationships with people who share similar attitudes, interests and values with you. Expect the best – Lonely people often expect rejection, so instead, focus on positive thoughts and attitudes in your social relationships. With these tips in place, you would be able to overcome loneliness and live a healthy and happy life.
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