4. Loneliness can be contagious
Loneliness can get contagious and it has a certain social stigma attached to it.
It has been found by a study that it’s not only the lonely people who get pushed to the periphery of social circles but also their friends due to social conditioning and stigma attached to it.
5. Loneliness can have physical effects
Loneliness can make our bodies feel under attack and can have adverse physiological effects. The effects of loneliness are almost similar to being in stress.
Our mind and body functions interdependently. When one stays in loneliness for a long span of time, our bodily resources to restore the lack of physical equilibrium will be slowly depleted leading to physical symptoms like stomach ache, headache, numbness in arms etc. It can increase blood pressure and cholesterol and put our nervous system on hyper active mode.
Chronic loneliness can lead to various psychiatric disorders like depression, alcohol abuse, child abuse, sleep problems, personality disorders and Alzheimer’s disease. (1) It can also cause gastrointestinal problems like lack of appetite, nausea, stomachache, stomach ulcers, indigestion etc.
6. Loneliness can affect your immune system
When our body is under extreme stress, it signals our neurological system and immune system to stay on hyper alert mode.
Our immune system remains highly under pressure, working at its highest potential, when we are in chronic loneliness, to keep helping the body and the mind to cope with the situation. But once it’s depleted of its resources, the body starts signaling us to mend the situation through psychosomatic symptoms mentioned earlier.
Over time, loneliness can cause the immune system to function less efficiently, which can increase the risk of developing all kinds life style related illnesses.
7. Loneliness can be as dangerous as smoking
According to some psychologists, loneliness can be as dangerous as smoking and can adversely affect our health and longevity.
Holt-Lunstad published two major studies that establish the overall effect of loneliness as a risk factor for risk or early death.(2) Holt-Lunstad’s first study involved 3 lakh participants showed that scoring low on the indicators of social connection carried a similar risk to smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day. Participants with stronger social interactions were found to have a 50% increased likelihood of survival.
The second study involved 3.4 million participants and focused on subjective loneliness and actual, physical social isolation, and found that both can lead to a 30% increased risk of premature death.
Other studies have also shown that chronic loneliness can increase the risk of early death by 14%.