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Isolation and Loneliness

Elder people together with cheerful faces

Health risks associated with loneliness and social isolation are comparable to the dangers of smoking and obesity, increasing mortality risk by up to 30%. Feeling alone increases the risk of death by 26%, while social isolation and living alone increases mortality risk by 29% and 32%, respectively, according to a March 2015 study.


  • Social connections have a profound influence on risk for mortality and are associated with a 30% increased risk of early death.
  • Loneliness is as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad.
    Loneliness affects more than one-third of American adults, with particular likelihood among individuals facing challenging life circumstances like loss of a loved one, and chronic or catastrophic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, mental illness or cancer.
  • Loneliness has negative effects on mental health, worsening depression, anxiety, mood disorders and cognitive decline, and on physical health, leading to higher rates cardiovascular impairment, chronic pain, and fatigue.
  • Certain age groups, notably adolescents, young adults and older adults seem to be particularly at risk as marked by growing incidence of depression, substance abuse, and suicide.
  • External factors may be accelerating the crisis; research indicates, for instance, Internet and social media engagement exacerbate feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety, according to a 2014 annual survey of college students.
  • Here’s a 2018 overview of current research on the public health risks of isolation and loneliness.

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