Loneliness may not just make you sad. It could also be a major factor in causing premature death, new research has found.
Feelings of extreme isolation can increase the chance of dying prematurely by a whopping 14 percent, said University of Chicago Professor John Cacioppo on Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Chicago, Ill., according to UChicagoNews.
That's almost twice as high as the risk of early death from obesity, noted Cacioppo, who performed a study examining the decline in physical and mental health of more than 2,000 adults over age 55.
Loneliness can have a variety of harmful effects, from disturbing your sleep, increasing your blood pressure, causing a rise in the stress hormone cortisol and lowering your overall subjective well-being, Cacioppo added.
Moving away from your support network after retirement can increase feelings of isolation, Cacioppo said. “We think that retirement means leaving friends and family and buying a place down in Florida where it is warm and living happily ever after. But that’s probably not the best idea,” the professor warned, according to The Independent.
So what can you do to avoid dying early from loneliness? Try hanging out more with friends and family. "What's really important is companionship and mutual assistance and protection," Cacioppo told USA Today. "The stresses and challenges of life are more easily endured if we can share them with someone in whom we can confide and trust."