Loneliness is an emotional response by an individual to isolation, lack of companionship and lack of social or emotional connection not due to choice. Thus one can be lonely even in a crowd because of the absence of a close person. Someone can decide to remain isolated but not lonely; that is by choice.
Lonely persons have no one to spend free time with or confide in or discuss important matters with.
Common causes include: Mental abuse, Inability to fit in, Heart break, Death, Divorce, Social media, Age (old age), Unstable marriage, Unstable close relationship, Lovelessness, Modernisation, Low-density neighbourhood. Of these, old age and low-density neighbourhood are the greatest culprits.
The health effects of loneliness are discussed below:
Loneliness is known to increase the risk of depression and hence the risk for suicide. Depression is a mental disorder characterized by low mood, sadness, hopelessness, helplessness and low self-esteem.
Loneliness is known to increase the risk of dementia; it is a mental disorder resulting from a brain disease or brain injury. Dementia is common in old age and is characterized by recent memory loss, confusion, disorientation, difficulty in walking, poor speech and behavioural changes.
3. Chronic diseases (heart disease, stroke, High BP, obesity)
Loneliness is associated with high levels of the hormone called cortisol. This hormone leads to narrowing of blood vessels and rise in blood sugar, the excess of the later is converted to fat and stored in the adipose tissue leading to obesity.
Loneliness from study reports increases blood pressure by about 30 points, persistent high blood pressure can cause damage to blood vessels leading to plaque formation. If the heart blood vessels are involved, this can lead to a form of heart disease.
4. Premature death
Loneliness increases the risk of suicide in both young and old. Some researchers have shown that loneliness increases the risk of heart attack.
Loneliness is said to increase the blood level of cortisol, this chemical is known to cause anxiety and sleeplessness.
6. Poor response to medical care
Studies conducted in the University of Chicago, USA showed that patients with family support or support from friends respond better to medical treatment than those without such support.
Some people seek solace in alcohol when lonely and this could lead to alcoholism and its attendant health effects.
Also Read Effects of Housing on Health (3)
8. Reduced Immunity
Loneliness is said to reduce our immunity, the ability to fight diseases. Loneliness reduces the production of the white blood cells called MONOCYTES which fight impending infections.