Studies show that older adults who are lonely see a decline in their thinking abilities, which is rapid if paired with other factors like physical inactivity, anxiety, poor sleep and high blood pressure.
Prolonged social isolation is a kind of mental stress leading to various mental and physical health issues like faster ageing, dementia and cognitive decline. It has also been linked to the factors that lead to Alzheimer’s disease, like a build-up of certain toxic proteins in the brain.
Most people consider loneliness a "personal problem," to be figured out by individuals. However, the complications arising from loneliness impact our health care system, using tax dollars for health care providers and facilities. Research has consistently associated loneliness with different kinds of disease and premature mortality.
Generation Z (ages 18-22) had the highest loneliness scores, followed by the millennials (ages 23-37). The Greatest Generation (adults ages 72 and older) were the least lonely.
Lonely people are less able to pick up on positive social stimuli, like others’ attention and commitment signals, so they withdraw prematurely – in many cases before they’re actually socially isolated.
According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, a commission originally set up by MP Jo Cox in 2016, loneliness can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It is also associated with increased risk of heart disease, stroke and blood pressure, as well as dementia - one study cited by the campaign found that lonely people "have a 64% increased chance of developing clinical dementia".
The popularity of meditation is increasing as more people discover its benefits. Meditation is a habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many people think of it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration.