More than one billion people are struggling with loneliness according to a new survey from Gallup and Meta that found younger adults are more likely to suffer from the condition which health experts warn can have the same effect on one’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
The Christian Post reports the survey which will be officially released on Wednesday (November 1) was conducted in 142 countries and areas worldwide, excluding China, the second-most populated country in the world. Researchers believe that the actual rate of loneliness could be even higher.
“In countries all over the world, millions of people experience loneliness in their daily lives. Research shows that loneliness is associated with elevated risk for a wide range of physical and mental health conditions, making research on loneliness a critical first step to improving health and wellbeing worldwide,” Ellyn Maese, a senior research consultant with Gallup, noted.
The data suggests mature adults aged 65 and older reported the lowest incidence of loneliness with just 17% saying they were feeling very or fairly lonely. Among young adults aged 19 to 29, 27% of respondents reported feeling very or fairly lonely.
“Although many calls to reduce loneliness are focused on older adults, the majority of those aged 45 and older do not feel lonely at all, while less than half of those younger than 45 say the same. Overall, the global data shows that a quarter of all people report feeling very or fairly lonely, with older adults the least likely to report feelings of loneliness. Understanding differences in how people experience, or do not experience, loneliness across the globe can lead to new avenues for mitigating loneliness and improving social well-being in communities everywhere,” Ms. Maese said. ”
In a May advisory on the healing effects of social connection and community, titled Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy shared how loneliness affects overall health. “Loneliness is far more than just a bad feeling. It harms individual and societal health. It is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death,” he said.
The Surgeon General added that: “The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and even greater than that associated with obesity and physical inactivity.”
The data in his advisory showed that loneliness and social isolation increase the risk of premature death by 26% and 29%, respectively. Poor or insufficient social connection is also tied to a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke. Loneliness can also increase susceptibility to viruses and respiratory illness.
Dr. Murthy encouraged investments in simple acts of kindness like answering phone calls from friends or sharing meals. “Each of us can start now, in our own lives, by strengthening our connections and relationships. Our individual relationships are an untapped resource — a source of healing hiding in plain sight. They can help us live healthier, more productive, and more fulfilled lives,” he said.