Alone, Not Lonely? Why Your Isolation Could Actually Be Killing You
Here’s another reason to feel bad about your single, lonely life: You’ll probably die soon. Well, at least sooner than your happy, shiny, coupled friends. And even your overweight friends (but more on that later). Essentially, science is telling us what we already knew -- our loneliness is literally killing us inside.
Not to be way harsh Tai, but we’re here to give you the tough love you need (and we know you need it, you’re alone, aren’t you?). Here’s the first tip: You should probably get out more if you want to live a little, and we’re not just referring to experiences here.
Science shows isolating yourself weakens your immune system, which makes you more susceptible to diseases and infections. In fact, feeling broken-hearted isn’t all just in your head; forlorn people have an increased vulnerability to cardiovascular diseases and compromised immuno-responses to viral infections (meaning, fighting off that cold is going to be a whole lot harder without someone taking care of you).
And if you’re the type of solo-dolo who comforts yourself by saying things like, “At least I’m not fat” then you should probably rethink your logic. Research has shown that feeling unloved and alone is twice as likely to kill you as being overweight. Better snack on those Oreos while you still can.
Feelings of isolation are stronger than those late-night cravings for leftovers in the fridge (Noodle Garden, we're looking at you). When you're all by yourself, it's harder to cope with stress and overcome tough times. As a result, blood pressure can rise, potentially causing heart attacks or strokes, and your chances of undergoing depression increase, too.
Can't a girl just want to be alone? We'll sort of. It's important to note the subjects were all elderly people and, therefore, in a different phase of life than the following generations. For examples, living on your own in your late twenties after living with a roommate for the better part of a decade can be very rewarding (just check out Elite Daily articles 1, 2, 3).
It's not just living alone, though, that qualifies you for dying early -- it's the negative emotions and feelings of despair (you know the ones you reserve all day for your pals, Pillow and Blankie) that will take years off of your life. Hmm, maybe you should reconsider that questionable roomie from Craigslist.
Think we're joking about this? Think you won't feel the effects while you're heating up a Lean Cuisine hot pocket for one? This is about as real as lighting up. In fact, the mortality risk is comparable to that of smoking.
But there's good-ish news for all the lonely souls out there, falling asleep to the sound of just themselves: the number of lonely adults has, in fact, doubled to almost 40 percent. When you look at it that way, you realize,"Hey, maybe I'm not so alone after all." There are other people out there just as lonely as you are!
Even if you're not alone in the physical sense, that doesn't mean you are impervious to feeling lonely (think: that one depressed friend, or living in NYC). You can have a ton of friends and still feel like no one understands you or you're on your own. Studies show that it's not the quantity of companions, but the quality that really matters.
Furthermore, this social distancing can harmfully impact your health and potentially lead to sleep disorders or Alzheimer's Disease. Your loneliness isn't doing you any favors when it comes to sleeping at night. It's better to have someone occasionally roll on you than to roll alone with your own sad thoughts.
Your emotions are so powerful they can actually kill you. As The New York Times reports, “psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack.” What does this all mean? You might die. So there are some more comforting thoughts for when you’re lying awake alone at night…
Before you resign to the fact that you’re going to die alone and miserable, understand that this kind of thinking actually brings you one step closer to happiness: Self-awareness is the first action toward overcoming loneliness. You’re able to recognize your unhappiness and negative thinking, and now you just need the tools to turn it around.
The damage is not irreversible, either. The more comfortable you become with social situations or interacting with others, the less your body will produce stress hormones causing you to feel sick. Despite what the Kardashian show will lead you to believe, we humans aren’t all that bad!
The moral of the story? Your head is a much scarier place than the world around you.