You may have heard a dramatic friend say that they were so lonely they could just die. Perhaps you even rolled your eyes and carried on with your day, probably standing in the kitchen at work later with a colleague, having a laugh and saying things like “Did you hear what Debra was on about?”.
Well this may surprise you but Debra may just have been spot on. Studies have shown that extended periods of feeling lonely can negatively impact your health – to levels more dangerous than you think.
We live in an age where depression is frowned upon as “an inconvenient illness” or dismissed entirely as an excuse to be lazy. But it would appear that science is finally showing a direct link between depression and loneliness and certain health hazards.
Now I’ve never called in sad to work,but here is how that empty feeling inside could be more dangerous than you think.
Weaker immune system
Being lonely or depressed places stress on the human body. The human body reacts to stress in various ways, but one of the most common of these is shutting down of certain systems and bodily functions. People with a predisposition for illnesses such as glandular fever or Epstein Barr Virus are more vulnerable when their bodies are under stress. When these glands become inflamed for extended periods of time, it tends to wreak havoc on your immune system as a whole, allowing a host of other illnesses in.
Depression and periods of inactivity
The link between loneliness and depression is as obvious as the nose on your face, or the empty couch cushion next to you. When a person finds themselves in a state of depression, they often feel robbed of their “lust for life” and will lack energy to perform the most basic of activities, as well as the desire to participate in activities that would normally form part of daily life. While not getting out of bed or brushing your teeth may seem like a minor consequence, extended periods of inactivity may lead to further fights with the battle of the bulge. “Vegging” on the couch is often accompanied by comfort eating and this leads to greater health problems down the road, not to mention the risk to your career as work performance dwindles due to lack of interest.
We’ve all heard of being “heart sore” or “broken hearted”, and it’s less far fetched than you think. Some scientists have speculated that a severe emotional trauma places extreme stress on the human heart and can actually cause it to malfunction. Thus the expression, “A broken heart”. Studies have also shown that people who feel lonely for extended periods of time are 29% more likely to develop coronary diseases and are 32% more likely to suffer a stroke.
Crazy in love
The Alzheimer’s Association of America stated that one out of every three seniors dies from Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. While the lines remain very blurry on what causes this illness, researchers at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Centre ran a study that showed the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease doubled for individuals who were lonely.
Here are some numbers you could call:
Pharmadynamics Police &Trauma Line
0800 20 50 26
Adcock Ingram Depression and Anxiety Helpline
0800 70 80 90
Destiny Helpline for Youth & Students
0800 41 42 43
Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Line 24hr helpline
0800 12 13 14
Suicide Crisis Line
0800 567 567
SADAG Mental Health Line
011 234 4837
Akeso Psychiatric Response Unit 24 Hour
0861 435 787
Someone will be able to help.
Craig Stadler is a contributing writer for Anova Health Institute. These are his views, which may or may not reflect those of Anova and its affiliates.