A survey of 2 035 Americans over the age of 18 conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association found that 72% of Americans experience loneliness (1) (2). According to Dr. Jennifer Caudle, an osteopathic family physician and an assistant professor of family medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, “I was actually surprised that so many people felt they were alone. I thought it would be high, but not this high.”
Some recent research has also shown that loneliness has negative effects on an individual’s well being (3). One study of 141 adults showed, according to Dr. Matthew Lorber, acting director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, that “loneliness causes a physiological reaction in people” (4). Further research of 16 databases and 23 studies (encompassing some 180 000 adults) from London discovered that people who experience loneliness have a higher chance of suffering heart attacks and strokes, “Our work suggests that addressing loneliness and social isolation may have an important role in the prevention of two of the leading causes of morbidity in high income countries” (5).
There are a number of factors that may cause loneliness from depression to the increased use of computers and mobile devices (6), “Being connected electronically isn’t the same as in person,” explains Caudle, “There’s something about a person-to-person interaction that’s generally better for our well-being. Maybe it’s intangible. But I think being around other people, family or friends, and that reassurance, communication, or something as small as a smile or a touch, these are small things but I think they’re very important. Keep those digital connections, but cultivate the personal ones, too.”
If one is experiencing feelings of loneliness it is important to convey such feelings to a trusted family member, close friend, and/or personal doctor.
1. AOA. 2016. Survey Finds Nearly Three-Quarters (72%) of Americans Feel Lonely. Available.
2. CBS News. 2016. Feeling lonely? So are a lot of other people, survey finds. Available.
3. Marcus, M. 2015. Can loneliness make us sick? Available.
4. CBS News. 2016. Ibid.
5. Welch, A. 2016. Loneliness can harm your heart, study finds. Available.
6. Marcus, M. 2015. Ibid.