Study finds that loneliness increases risk of death

Posted at 8:28 AM, Mar 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-18 08:28:32-04

(CNN) — Batman has Robin, Han Solo has Chewbacca, Christopher Robin has Pooh — having companions in life doesn’t just make for adventures, it can also help you live longer, according to recent analysis. Researchers say that being alone and feeling lonely increases your chances of early death by roughly 30%.

One of the review’s authors, Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, of Brigham Young University, told CNN that when it comes to feeling alone versus being alone, “we need to take both seriously.” The data shows “greater longevity if you’re well connected,” she said, but we should also be concerned with the times when “others may be surrounded by others and still feel lonely.”

Only three of 70 studies in the review calculated the feelings of loneliness rather than actual isolation. Another factor in the review, which the authors take into account, is age and disease. The average age of the participants was 66, which shows the need for further research across younger age groups. The findings are published in the March issue of Perspectives in Psychological Science.

Strategies for avoiding loneliness

Despite pointing to further investigations, this research reinforces the benefits of friendships and human connection. The Mayo Clinic advises that despite the challenges a friendship may present, the benefits have a major impact.

And in a 2013 study of more than 3000 breast cancer patients, researchers found that socially isolated women had higher breast cancer symptoms and reported a lower sense of well-being

The research is mounting, but points to the same conclusion: Having friends and strong social connections will help you live longer and live better.

People all over the world avoid loneliness and some efforts are unique. In Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Finland, you can avoid dining alone at cafés, by having stuffed animal companions.

A Wisconsin entrepreneur attempted to open a “snuggle house,” where patrons could snuggle with a partner (for a fee). There was even a “cuddling convention” in Portland, Oregon, this year.

While people around the world may be creating new ways to foster closeness with other people, and teens today are not nearly as lonely as their parents’ generation, this new study shows actual health risks by not only being alone, but also feeling alone — especially as we age.