Loneliness Can Make You Sick

Apr 3, 2020

By: Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. | TexarkanaGazette.com

“We don’t heal in isolation, but in community,” S. Kelley Harrell, an interfaith minister once wrote. That is sure true, and recent studies confirm it.

An analysis of 30 existing studies published in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews found that loneliness and social isolation are associated with chronically elevated inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein and elevated levels of glycoprotein fibrinogen, which promotes blood clotting. While these are welcome when they’re summoning your immune system for a short-lived fight against a microbe or to do a repair job on damaged tissue, if they’re constantly present because of chronic emotional stress (loneliness is stressful) they can contribute to heart disease, obesity and stroke.

Another study published in BMJ Heart looked at nearly 500,000 people over seven years and found that social isolation and loneliness were associated with a 43% higher risk of a first-time heart attack. Other research suggests loneliness actually alters which of your genes are turned on or off, and weakens the immune system.

On the other hand, we know one predictor of longevity is having strong social and family ties. So if you’re feeling lonely or are isolated, try these time-proven solutions: Volunteer to help others — there are many online resources; get a dog; and seek counseling to help you overcome any social discomfort you may feel. Online loneliness support groups and groups that share your interests can also provide community. Google them; there are tons. If you’re homebound, sign up with Medicare’s home health benefits (go to medicareinteractive.org).

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