Surprising Ways Loneliness Can Actually Kill You

Can loneliness kill you? It might seem hard to believe that spending time away from people could cut your life short. Research, however, shows that older adults who don’t spend enough time with family and friends are more likely to feel sick, miserable, and apathetic. They’re less likely to take care of themselves. And they actually die earlier than they would if they maintained healthier social lives.

Here are all the ways spending a lot of time alone could increase your chances of dying sooner than you’d like.

1. Loneliness increases your chances of becoming depressed

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People who spend the majority of their time alone are more likely to experience symptoms of depression. Not getting help can actually increase your risk for other health problems, so if you’re feeling more “down” than usual, it’s OK — beneficial, even — to talk to your doctor about it.

Next: Being alone apparently creates the wrong kind of stress.

2. It can also lead to high blood pressure

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Middle-aged and older adults who experience chronic loneliness have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure. This is just one of many symptoms that increases your risk of dying from a stroke or heart attack, especially if you’re over 65.

Next: This disease shouldn’t have anything to do with loneliness … but it does.

3. Your chances of having a stroke increase

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An increased chance of developing high blood pressure and other health problems when you spend a lot of time alone also makes you more likely to experience a stroke. Loneliness itself won’t cause a spontaneous stroke, but its effect on your behavior and lifestyle might.

Next: Your risk of this common and deadly disease also goes up.

4. So do your chances of dying from a lung disease

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Loneliness over time tends to make people sicker, which is just one of many reasons why people aged 65 and older experience such high rates of chronic disease. Lung disease cases are common among people living in isolation, probably for a number of reasons.

Next: There’s a reason you might feel fatigued after spending too much time alone.

5. Loneliness affects the way you feel physically

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People who live in isolation tend to report poorer overall physical health than those who have active social lives. You’re more likely to experience physical symptoms of a variety of minor and severe health conditions if you lack social support.

Next: What happens to your mental health?

6. You might feel worse emotionally, too

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Loneliness doesn’t just make you feel worse physically: It also tends to make you feel worse emotionally. Poor emotional health has been shown to increase heart disease risk. The older you get, the more your risk of dying from heart trouble increases.

Next: Can how much time you spend alone predict how long you’re going to live?

7. You could die sooner rather than later

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There are a handful of ways you can predict how soon you’re going to die. How much time you spend alone is just one of them. People who isolate themselves socially tend to develop more life-threatening diseases and die younger.

Next: Loneliness also affects your attitude.

8. You might get grumpy about your future

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Loneliness makes you worry more about the future — and that can have a negative effect on your overall, long-term health. Maintaining a positive attitude about aging can increase your risk for life-threatening diseases like dementia.

Next: Once you have this health condition, you have it forever.

9. It increases your dementia risk

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Once you get dementia, you are guaranteed to die from complications related to it. Loneliness is one of many controllable factors that increase your risk of developing this fatal disease. An active social life can decrease your dementia risk.

Next: Make a few new friends if you want to avoid this type of life change.

10. You’re more likely to end up in a nursing home

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Seniors who experience social isolation are more likely to end up in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. If this is something you’d like to avoid, take steps to improving your health by maintaining a more fulfilling social life.

Next: You’re not the only one who looks for a snack when they get lonely.

11. You’re more likely to eat poorly

Multiple chips brand

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Older adults who experience social isolation are more likely to engage in risky lifestyle behaviors that could result in an early death. Diet is just one of these factors. Feeling lonely increases the chances you’ll eat more sweets, fast food, and more, which increases your overall disease risk.

Next: Your eating habits aren’t the only sacrifice you’re willing to make when you’re alone.

12. You’re less likely to exercise

elderly ladies workout

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Physical activity also appears on the list of healthy behaviors you’re more likely to ignore if you’re feeling lonely. Unfortunately, giving up exercise, especially later in life, reduces social isolation. You’re more likely to head to a gym or workout class to get your steps in, which puts you in the same room with other people.

Next: Can you guess another bad habit people usually do when they’re feeling lonely?

13. You’re more likely to smoke

Ash tray

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Even though you know it’s not good for you, you have a higher chance of smoking cigarettes if you spend too much time alone. The long-term use of cigarettes doesn’t just impact the health of your lungs. It also increases your risk of potentially fatal events, like strokes and heart attacks.

Next: Here’s another bad habit lonely people tend to gravitate toward.

14. You have a greater chance of drinking too much

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Do you drink when you’re lonely? You’re not the only one. Though an alcoholic beverage or two might be a daily staple in your life, drinking any more than that can increase your risk of developing cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Next: Can you “catch” loneliness from someone else?

15. Loneliness might be contagious

Senior man talking on mobile phone in living room at home

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If you’ve been feeling lonely lately, and you tell your friends and family about it, your loneliness actually increases theirs. People with lonely friends report more days of loneliness throughout a given year, which makes both of you more likely to die sooner.

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