If you’re like most Americans, you probably began drifting apart from some of your friends in your mid-twenties. This is caused by our social interests shifting from friends to our own family. While this is natural and generally okay, distancing yourself too much from the outside world can actually be hazardous to your health.
Since 1980, the percentage of American adults who report being lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent. According to AARP, loneliness is a strong predictor of poor health. They find that survey responders who rated their health as “excellent” were half as likely to be lonely than those who rated their own health as “poor.”
Specifically, research suggests that the lonely have disrupted sleep patterns and immune systems. Loneliness is also correlated with more inflammation, stress, and risk of heart disease and stroke. In total, the mortality risk of loneliness is similar to smoking, and twice as dangerous as obesity.
Despite being more connected with each other than ever through social networks like Facebook, these aren’t helping either. Another study finds that the more time spent on Facebook, the unhappier you feel throughout the day. Loneliness also carries a stigma. Nobody wants to admit they’re lonely. But if you are, you can take action to cure it. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Studies consistently show that volunteering increases happiness, a sense of achievement, and physical health. It’s also a great way to meet good people.
Reach Out to Old Friends30
Even if you haven’t spoken in years, reaching out to old friends can give you a significant boost. Chances are they’ll love hearing from you and that can lead to opportunities to reconnect.
Become Active in Your Community
Places like community recreational centers, libraries, or churches usually have programs meant to bring the community together. Participating in these can give you a greater sense of belonging and are usually a great way to give back.