Researchers from the University of Chicago have demonstrated that extreme loneliness and feelings of isolation can be twice as unhealthy as obesity for older people. The scientists tracked more than 2,000 people aged 50 and over for more than six years. Compared with the average person in the study, those who reported being lonely had a 14 percent greater risk of dying. Poverty increased the risk of an early death by 19 percent.
Christopher Masi, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center explains that stopping or preventing loneliness isn’t merely a matter of providing more people to interact with. Teaching lonely people to break cycles of negative thoughts about self-worth and how people perceive them was more effective.
Studies that used cognitive-behavioral therapy—a technique also used for treating depression, eating disorders, and other problems—were found to be particularly effective, the authors reported.