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1. Loneliness does not depend on how many friends or relationships you have. Loneliness depends entirely on the subjective quality of your relationships—on whether you feel emotionally and/or socially disconnected from those around you.
2. More than 60% of lonely people are married. When married couples no longer share their deepest feelings, thoughts, and experiences with one another it can leave them feeling disconnected and alone. People in such relationships truly believe their spouse cannot offer them the deep connection they would like.
3. Loneliness is contagious in social networks. Loneliness has a clear stigma: We tend to be able to spot and identify the lonely people around us. One study found that over a six-month period, lonely people were pushed to the periphery of social networks and surprisingly, so were their friends. Being pushed out “into the cold” in this way has a surprising effect on our bodies.
4. Loneliness makes our bodies feel like under attack. Loneliness causes an immediate and severe bodily reaction. It increases in blood pressure and cholesterol, and it activates our physical and psychological stress responses.
5. Chronic loneliness significantly increases our risk of cardiovascular disease. Over time, people who are chronically lonely have a much higher incidence of cardiovascular disease because their bodies are under constant and unrelenting stress.
6. Loneliness suppresses the functioning of our immune system. Loneliness causes our immune systems to function less efficiently, which over time, puts us at increased risk for developing all kinds of illnesses and diseases. Even brief bouts of loneliness impact our immune system.
7. Loneliness is as dangerous as cigarette smoking. Scientists have concluded that given all the drastic ways in which loneliness impacts our bodies, it represent as great a risk for our long term health and longevity as smoking cigarettes. Indeed, studies have concluded that chronic loneliness increases our risk of an early death by 14%.
Clearly, loneliness represents a hugely important psychological injury and not one we should ignore. Therefore, make sure to take steps when you are lonely, and to educate lonely people around you about the dangers of remaining lonely.