Social Isolation as Bad for Your Health as Obesity

Here’s one more reason to attend yoga or spinning class with a friend.

An analysis of studies covering more than 3 million people shows that loneliness and social isolation are as bad for your health as being obese. We truly are social animals.

Researchers at Brigham Young University examined studies published between 1980 and 2014 and found that feeling lonely, being socially isolated, or living alone increased your chance of mortality 26 to 32 percent.

Two interesting twists in the results, as well:

  • Feeling lonely, being socially isolated, and living along was more predictive in populations with an average age younger than 65.
  • There was no difference for those who simply felt they were socially isolated compare to those who were actually, observably socially isolated.

So it seems counter-intuitive that more of us choose to live alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 27 percent of us now live alone. Fifteen percent of U.S. households are single women living alone.

The region with the lowest numbers of people living alone is Utah and Idaho, areas traditionally dominated by Mormon communities. Maybe not coincidentally, the analysis of studies came from the flagship Mormon university. Those Latter-Day Saints might be on to something.

As the saying goes, there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. The analysis specifically focuses on the actual or perceived lack of social connection. I think a person can live alone and still have ample social connection.

But for we social animals to benefit from being together, we actually have to be together. Do you feel you have enough social connection?

(Image courtesy of Flickr)


  1. […] All of us are wired with a social nature. We live together in families and neighborhoods and cities because it’s better for us individually and collectively. In fact, we know that social isolation is as harmful as obesity. […]

  2. […] one previous post, I wrote about how social isolation is as unhealthy as obesity. In another, I talk about how social connection helps us fight […]

  3. […] Loneliness can be as deadly as obesity or smoking. Communities are now investing in social goods to combat loneliness to overcome neglect in community-building programs. […]


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