Study: Loneliness More Unhealthy Than Obesity

When it comes to getting healthier, making a new friend might be better for you than a year's membership at the gym.  A new study presented to the American Psychological Association says that loneliness and social isolation pose a bigger threat to health than obesity.  The research analyzed 148 other studies covering more than 300,000 people to arrive at its core conclusion, which is that loneliness can literally kill.  Researchers found that having a "greater social connection" can reduce the risk of premature death by 50 percent.

KTRH Psychology Expert Dr. Laurence Abrams isn't sure about loneliness being a public health threat, but he definitely agrees it is a major issue that cuts across all ages and groups.  "There are lots of lonely, single people...the biggest single problem I see in my practice is loneliness, no question," he tells KTRH.  "The kids in grade school feel alone, the kids in high school feel alone, even the ones that are popular sometimes feel alone...we always hear everybody else is doing great, but not ourselves."

Dr. Abrams believes many people simply miss out on the opportunities they have to make human connections every day.  "I sometimes have people carry a little notepad in their pocket, and every time they pass somebody, bump into somebody, talk to somebody, I have them make a mark."  He explains that making better social connections starts with simply talking to people.  "People really like to be spoken to and to be acknowledged," says Dr. Abrams.  "I try to get them to start acknowledging other people, and you'll get positive responses for the most part."

The loneliness problem in America was also chronicled in a 2010 study by AARP, which found that 35 percent of Americans age 45 and older suffer from chronic loneliness, which equates to about 43 million people.

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