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Chronic loneliness can affect both physical and mental health

Depression-Treatment. Photo Credit: Ava Brown

Depression-Treatment. Photo Credit: Ava Brown
Depression-Treatment. Photo Credit: Ava Brown

Loneliness can be considered one of the worst condition of humanity in this century. The necessity of being alone is part of the human being, but the wish of complete isolation may refer to a grave problem challenging to identify and even worst to treat.

Until recently, most of the studies on isolation and solitude were focused on the elderly, who were eventually forgotten by the family at the end of their lives. That has changed in this generation.

With the new technologies advance, many young people isolate themselves and live only in the digital world. In Japan, this has even gained a specific nomenclature: hikikomori. This group is mainly composed of people between 15 and 39 years old. They withdraw entirely from social life and begin to live in isolation in the home, sometimes in a room.

Recently, the University of Chicago has published research showing that isolation could be as harmful as smoking. According to the study, loneliness impairs immunity and increases stress, depression, blood pressure and the chances of developing Alzheimer’s. The risk of premature death increases by 30% in middle-aged adults living in isolation.

The study, which was developed by the University of California and the University of Chicago, has the hypothesis of it is a sign of the evolution of human beings as a group. Outside the “pack,” the individual becomes “denatured”, and this entails severe physical and psychological impairments.
The impact of that can be seen as a deficiency in the immune system and the increase of more than a third in the risk of diseases in the heart and strokes.

Another factor that contributes to this number is the increase in behaviours harmful to health, such as excessive alcohol intake, smoking, binge eating and lack of stimulation for physical exercise and outdoor activities.

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