Loneliness is NOT Good For Your Mental Health

Having fun, doing hobbies, or getting real rest and relaxation all play roles in better health. Sadly, when we engage in these activities alone we miss out on the social connections our brains and body crave. When our pastimes include other folks, our general well being improves and our mental health is fortified.

Related posts: Humor, Spirituality and Religion, Animal Companionship, and Work/Life Balance

—May is Mental Health Month, #4Mind4Body

Social Interaction Is Good For You

“Social relationships, or the relative lack thereof, constitute a major risk factor for health—rivaling the effect of well-established health risk factors such as cigarette smoking, blood pressure, blood lipids, obesity, and physical activity”

—House, Landis, and Umberson; Science 19881

We all know about how the risk factors of smoking, diet, and exercise influence mortality, but social relationships, or the lack of them may also have a risk on our mortality.

These days, widening economic, cultural and political forces shape the way society treats relationships, often leading to chronic loneliness, which in turn can lead to severe physical and mental health issues. Add to this to the way we interact using new technologies at work and home, and a recipe for loneliness is assured.

However, in a study conducted by three Brigham Young University professors, concluded: “The quality and quantity of individuals’ social relationships has been linked not only to mental health but also to both morbidity and mortality.”

In all, these psychology professors examined 148 other studies of more than 300,000 individuals. Their research when combined, indicated “a 50% increased likelihood of survival for participants with stronger social relationships. This finding remained consistent across age, sex, initial health status, cause of death, and follow-up period.”2

Another study showed that people who participated in “cognitive activities, reading, playing board games, and playing musical instruments were associated with a lower risk of dementia.” This report also noted that “Dancing was the only physical activity associated with a lower risk of dementia.”3

Studies like these, show that we need to find more ways to get together and to bridge generational, racial and other divides. One way to do this is to volunteer. Volunteermatch.org and JustServe.org maintain databases of opportunities across a variety of causes, nationwide

Recreation Is Good For You

People who do things in nature have better perceptions of their own emotional well-being. [6]

Taking a vacation can help you to feel happier and less stressed for a while. Even short vacations help! [7]

Adolescents who participate in sports have lower odds of suffering from depression or thinking about suicide, likely because sports increase self-esteem and social support. [8]

Participating in outdoor recreation decreases symptoms of depression in people with disabilities. [10]

What is NOT good for you? Loneliness!

Being lonely cause the same amount of damage to your lifespan as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is more dangerous to health than obesity. [1]

Loneliness is associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure in older people. [2]

Poor social supports make it harder to recover from mental illnesses, while a strong social support system improves overall outcomes and the ability to bounce back from stress. [3]

Women diagnosed with breast cancer who had weak social support systems before treatment had more pain and symptoms of depression over time than those who started treatment with strong social support systems. [4]

Download this review page at The Bonus Vault


1 House, Landis, and Umberson; “Social relationships and health;” Science 241, pp 540–545, 1988.
2 Holt-LunstadSmith, and  Layton, “Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review,” US National Library of MedicineNational Institutes of Health, July 27, 2010
3 Verghese, Lipton, et al.; “Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly;” The New England Journal of Medicine; 2003.

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