6 Ways Loneliness Affects Your Physical and Mental Health
The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.
Loneliness is a universal emotion. We feel it when we’re alone, clearly, but we can also feel it even if we’re surrounded by others, when we’re in a relationship, and even when we’re part of a community. And it can happen at any age.
That’s not all that surprising: Humans are social animals. We evolved to live and work together, to form bonds with others, and to always be around people. A life lived alone is a difficult one.
How loneliness affects your health may surprise you. Its consequences are widespread and serious: they can even shorten your life. If you’re currently feeling lonely, you may be wondering how it could be affecting you physically, or perhaps you’ve been feeling under the weather for a while now and haven’t figured out why.
Maybe you just want to know more about this common human emotion so that you can better understand its effects on your own life and the lives of those around you. No matter the reason, here are 6 ways in which loneliness affects your physical and mental health.
Loneliness can increase your risk for heart disease and increase your blood pressure
Research suggests that chronic loneliness can increase levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These chemicals can raise heart rate and blood pressure, which may increase the risk for heart disease down the line. Also, loneliness increases inflammation in the body, which is another risk factor for chronic heart disease.
Another way loneliness can affect your physical health is that it can raise your blood pressure. A lot of lonely people have issues with their blood pressure. That’s how much loneliness can have an impact on someone’s life.
It may lead to depression
When you are lonely, you tend to feel depressed. Usually, feelings of sadness make us want to isolate ourselves even more. When this sadness becomes prolonged, it can lead to depression. Read more about loneliness and mental health here.
Loneliness may interfere with sleep
Loneliness can also affect your sleep. Many lonely people find it difficult to sleep and even if they manage to, they don’t wake up feeling energized and well-rested. Others find themselves sleeping too much when they’re lonely to avoid negative emotions and feelings.
If you have been having difficulty sleeping for quite a while now, it could be a sign that you are lonely. Loneliness makes you think throughout the day and night and prevents you getting the restful sleep that your body needs.
Loneliness may cause chronic inflammation
Chronic inflammation is another way loneliness can affect your physical health. One way your immune system fights against disease or healing is through inflammation. When you are lonely, your body keeps sending wrong signals even when it’s obvious that there is no injury or danger.
Usually, chronic inflammation causes chronic health problems, like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Chronic loneliness increases your risk of dementia
You have a high risk of suffering from dementia if you are lonely. And dementia is a serious mental health issue that should not be taken for granted. Studies suggest that older adults who are lonely are at a greater risk for dementia and other degenerative neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Loneliness may shorten your life
Did you know that apart from the heart issues, depression, and chronic inflammation that loneliness can cause, it can also shorten your life? This is because the feeling of loneliness can have a serious and negative impact on your health. Over time, it weakens your immune system and makes your body vulnerable to different illnesses that may lead to premature death.
To sum up, loneliness is a hard thing to deal with. It can affect your physical and mental health in ways that might be irreversible. It can also cause one to do things they never thought they would. However, you need to know that if you feel lonely, you should take steps to improve your social connections. You can reach out to family and friends for support. Or, if you don’t have anyone in your life, you can look for a support group or a community event where you can meet new people.
But if you’re struggling with depression or another mental health issue that’s making it hard for you to get out of the house, there are online support groups where you can connect with people who are dealing with similar issues. In-person or online therapy can also be incredibly beneficial.