Studies Find Literally Just Meeting Your Neighbors Could Save Your Life, But Not How You Think


Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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An article published Wednesday by Nature details how acute loneliness can turn chronic, having disastrous impacts on physical health.

When most of us think of loneliness, we automatically assume it is just a mental disorder, brought about by a lack of human connection in a technologically-destructive modern world. But an analysis published by Nature detailed how contemporary research has identified a slew of physical issues and diseases that are exacerbated when the patient is lonely.

The physical impacts of loneliness can be as harsh to the body as “obesity, physical inactivity, and smoking,” as well as being linked to “depression, dementia, cardiovascular disease, and early death.” Sleep disorders, weight problems, neurological disorders and even urological problems are higher in people who are lonely.

People who experience loneliness — which is not the same as social isolation, in which people have few meaningful relationships — are more at risk of high blood pressure and immune system deficiencies compared with people who are not lonely. (RELATED: After Leading Calls To Lock People In Their Homes Indefinitely, The WHO Has Decided To Wage A War On Loneliness)

The big issue? Science can’t determine what causes loneliness. Research suggests the problem self-perpetuates: if you start to feel lonely, that sensation will continue to grow unless mitigated. Further data is needed to accurately determine how loneliness develops a neurological-physical feedback loop and to determine paradigms within the process.

But, somewhat obviously, the cure to loneliness is probably the easiest of all diseases: Social activity. By forcing ourselves into a new social context instead of being “stuck in rumination,” we can kickstart our brains and bodies into healthier behaviors, such as exercise.

If you’re feeling lonely right now, I strongly suggest you read the full analysis in Nature. And please, so long as it is safe to do so, get to know your neighbors. We live in a world where we are so normalized to communication via screens instead of faces that it’s no wonder we’re suffering from a loneliness epidemic. (RELATED: ‘The Saddest Person I Ever Met’: Huge Star Opens Up About Robin Williams)

Forcing yourself out of your miserable comfort zone is extremely difficult — trust me, I have first-hand experience. So please, for your sake and the sake of the people you love, get up, get out and get to know the people who live around you. It could literally save your life.