Loneliness unhealthy as smoking and alcoholism, new study says

Thursday, July 29, 2010

According to a new study, loneliness and isolation can be as harmful to your health as smoking or alcohol abuse.
Image: Jesus Solana.

A recent scientific review, involving more than 300,000 people across several previous studies, has revealed that inadequate social networking and frequent isolation can have negative effects on a person's health equal to that caused by smoking and alcohol abuse. It was found that those who experience sufficient social interactions were 50 per cent more likely to be alive when re-examined eight years later than those who were more socially isolated.

The scientists on the project ranked having low-quality relationships with friends and family as equivalent to frequent substance abuse (that is to say, 15 cigarettes a day or heavy alcohol consumption) but worse for a person's health than not participating in exercise and being obese.

Timothy Smith, project leader from Brigham Young University (BYU), in Utah, claims that "the importance of having a network of friends and good family relationships is comparable to quitting smoking and exceeds many risk factors of mortality such as obesity, physical inactivity."

Related studies have shown that quality relationships stimulate mental and physical health. Smith went onto suggest that General Practitioners should also examine a patient's social network to promote good health.

"Physicians, health professionals, educators and the public media take risk factors such as smoking, diet and exercise seriously. The data presented here make a compelling case for social relationship factors to be added to that list," he continued.