Loneliness is defined as a self-perceived state in which a person network of relationships is either smaller or less satisfying than desired. Loneliness is a universal human emotion that is both complex and unique to each individual
With the advent of the internet and varieties of social media, virtual and networking sites to chose from, one would expect boredom and loneliness. Yet, many people seem to feel less connected with the people and the world around them. Sometimes spending time alone is necessary, but prolonged social isolation can have some serious health effects.
Long-term loneliness can affect more than just your mood. It can become detrimental to your physical health. Here are ten ways that loneliness can affect your health.
Loneliness can Lead to Depression
Loneliness and depression are not the same things but often complement each other. Loneliness, stemming from a lack of intimate contacts, is a heavy burden to bear. If not timely addressed, it can cause the sufferer to fall into deep depression. Depression, on the other hand, causes you to withdraw and lose interest in others. A lack of genuine connection with other people feeds directly into these characteristics of depression.
Loneliness may Lead to Low Sexual Drive
Loneliness can cause you to have zero interest in craving sexual contact and romantic date. You might experience a reduced interest in sex, romance, and love, as feeling stressed or overburdened can cause your libido to go down.
Poor Quality Sleep
Lonely people spend a lot more time in bed, but a lot less time sleeping. Also, the effects of loneliness can cause you to feel like you need to get in bed, even if you aren’t tired. Typically, poor quality sleep deprives you of the energy needed to carry out your daily activities or engage in any meaningful social activities
Increased Risk of Dementia
The feelings of loneliness can singly contribute to the risk of dementia in later life. Individuals with feelings of loneliness remained 1.64 times more likely to develop clinical dementia than persons who did not feel lonely.
Researchers suggest that loneliness may affect cognition and memory as a result of the loss of regular use, or that loneliness could itself be a sign of emerging dementia, and either be a behavioral reaction to impaired cognition or a marker of undetected cellular changes in the brain.
Some many people have gone through this phase at one point in their lives, after been left broken-hearted from a failed relationship. In an attempt to fill the void created by the lack of human connection, one of the ways they deal with their loneliness is to binge on food. Think of all the romantic movies you’ve seen where the grieving character binges on chocolate, ice cream, pizza and all the comfort foods they can lay their hands on. These may fill the emptiness but ultimately compromises your health in the process. This may spiral out of your control and lead to more serious health issues like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
You are at Risk of a Heart Disease
Middle-aged adults who lack social support or in social isolation, have a 29% increased risk of dying from a heart disease and 32% greater risk of stroke, according to a 2012 Harvard study. Numerous studies and research have consistently shown that lonely people have an increased risk of heart diseases and can be attributed to many reasons.
Firstly, loneliness kills any motivation to eat healthy diets or stay fit and keep in shape through exercise.
Secondly, since they lack any social support, they are easily prone to the ill effects of stress, which increases the risk of developing a heart disease
Finally, lonely and isolated people are more likely to smoke and drink alcohol, both of which are risk factors for heart disease.
Weakened Immune System
Lonely individuals are significantly more likely to report poor health than non-lonely individuals. This is because loneliness alters the immune system, which usually leads to less resistance to a number of health issues
Researchers suggest loneliness disrupts the fight-or-flight signaling, which leads to increased production of immature monocytes, causing lower antiviral responses and increased inflammation. In turn, this may impair the production of white blood cells, partly explaining why lonely individuals are at greater risk for chronic illness.
Loneliness can Cause Premature Death
Loneliness triggers biological changes which cause illness and premature death. Loneliness is often overlooked as a predictor that significantly increases the risk for premature mortality, a factor that exceeds many leading health indicators in magnitude.
Loneliness Might Make it Harder to Interact with Others
One of the challenges of lonely people is developing meaningful and fulfilling relationships. People who experience greater loneliness perceive social situations as threatening. Although this may seem odd, you would assume that those who are lonely would take advantage of opportunities to form connections – it’s a phenomenon that has roots in evolution. In an attempt to replace the need for social contact, they tend to put an increased focus on material objects. This involves attachment to objects such as cars, computers, bicycles, and guns.
Loneliness Makes Coping with Stress More Stress
According to Psychology Today, “lonely individuals report higher levels of perceived stress even when exposed to the same stressors as non-lonely people, and even when they are relaxing.
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