Why Being Alone Is Hazardous to Your Health

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It’s been well established that social isolation is a serious health risk, particularly for seniors. A 2010 study showed that too much alone time can be just as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Many scientists have assumed that loneliness is the culprit, and subsequent research has backed this suspicion. But a new study is overturning this view, showing that even people who don’t mind being alone are still significantly more likely to die when their social networks are diminished.

The recent study was conducted at the University College London by epidemiologist Andrew Steptoe and his colleagues who looked at data from 6,500 men and women over the age of 50. Back in 2004 and 2005, they all filled out questionnaires assessing their levels of loneliness. The researchers looked at social isolation in terms of contact with family members and friends, and participation in local groups (like civic organizations). Participants also answered a standard questionnaire that measured loneliness. The researchers then tracked the participants’ health over the course of the next seven years.

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