How lethal is loneliness?

Loneliness and social isolation possibly greater risk to health than obesity

Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University presented findings from two meta-analyses at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association:

  • The first focused on 148 studies of more than 300,000 participants. It found that individuals with a greater social connection were 50% less to die early.
  • The second study of more than 3.4 million participants investigated how social isolation, living alone and loneliness affected mortality. It found that all three factors had a profound and similar effect on the risk of dying early, equal to or surpassing a risk factor like obesity.


The AARP’s Loneliness Study found that 42.6 million adults over age 45 suffered from chronic loneliness. Also, according to recent U.S. census data:

  • More than 25% of the population lives alone
  • More than 50% is unmarried
  • Marriage rates and number of children per household has dropped.

All trends that point towards a ‘loneliness epidemic’.

All of this is strong evidence that loneliness raises the risk of dying prematurely. The question is, what to do about it?

Prof Holt-Lunstad suggested:

  • A priority on research and resources to address the issue, for eg. social skills training at school, or encouraging doctors to include social connectedness in medical screening.
  • Preparing for retirement socially.
  • Community planning to include spaces that motivate people getting together.

Read more at Science Daily