Close relationships can extend your lifespan

Loneliness can bring on a slew of health problems, which can eventually lead to an early death, a new report has revealed.

And these problems can begin as early as infancy, the report from the American Psychological Association (ASA) said.

The analysis features a collection of studies from different establishments, all of which conclude that if a person does not have meaningful relationships, their chances of being diagnosed with fatal diseases are higher.

Specific ailments that affect lonely people more are obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and heart attacks.

For this reason, psychologists are urging public health officials to recognize the ‘loneliness epidemic’ as a priority, as government agencies are doing little to address the issue.

A new report from the American Psychological Association claims that loneliness can negatively impact a person’s health, beginning as early as infancy (file photo)

Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a researcher who contributed to the report, said that up to 43 percent of adults in the US over 60 years old have reported experiencing ‘intense loneliness’.

This could be due to the fact that more than one-fourth of the US population lives alone, and over half of the population is not married, Dr Holt-Lunstad said.

She added that the divorce rate of first marriages in the US is 40 percent.

One study that the new report looks at, from Brigham Young University, highlights the fact that people in high-quality relationships who feel socially stable have a decreased risk of mortality.

‘Social isolation, loneliness and relationship discord are well-established risk factors for poor health,’ the report said.


A report from the US National Library of Medicine has found that one of the leading causes fueling the loneliness epidemic is the increasing population of elderly Americans.

The study shows that 40 percent of older adults have experienced loneliness.

The feeling of loneliness is otherwise described as ’emptiness’ or as having a ‘hollow feeling’, according to the report.

And this feeling can create a vicious cycle, as it can lead people to become more isolated than they already are.

‘Loneliness can threaten one’s feelings of personal worth and decrease confidence in the ability to develop and maintain interpersonal relationships,’ the report says.

Additionally, the BYU study claimed that government agencies, groups that fund health care and health care providers have not little if anything to categorize loneliness as a public health concern that needs to be prioritized.

This is despite the swell of evidence that has come out in recent years, which suggests that companionship positively affects one’s health.

But the World Health Organization now lists ‘social support networks’ as a factor that can contribute to one’s health, Dr Holt-Lunstad said.

She emphasized that nobody is safe from the ‘loneliness epidemic’, saying: ‘Regardless of one’s sex, country or culture of origin or economic background, social connection is crucial to human development, health and survival.’

Other studies presented in the ASA’s report echoed this. An example is a study by Northwestern University that looked at the effects relationships have on a child’s health.

The study found that ’emotionally significant’ relationships that provide a child with comfort are associated with better overall health, beginning in infancy and continuing until adulthood.

And children aren’t the only ones who benefit. A University of Utah study concluded that marriage can reduce one’s chances of coronary heart disease.

But simply having a partner will not provide the benefits: the quality of the partnership is crucial, as strained relationships will actually increase one’s risk of having the disease.

The ASA report’s editor, Dr Christine Dunkel Schetter, said that the point of the collected research was to make clear the relationship between good health and strong social connections.

She said: ‘[The studies] draw from relationship science and health psychology, two areas of scientific inquiry with independent histories and distinct domains.

‘The challenge remains to translate existing and future knowledge into interventions to improve social relationships for the benefit of physical and mental health.’