There has been a great deal written in the past few years about the negative health effects of social isolation.
One of the those studies suggested that loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Research shows a 26% increased risk of death due to a subjective feeling of loneliness.
We all know how harmful smoking is to our health, thanks to a massive advertising campaign to get the word out. It seems the same needs to be done regarding the problem of social isolation.
If the negative health effects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day is equivalent to the negative health effects of loneliness, then there needs to be an equivalent amount of effort spent to eliminate each problem.
And while quitting smoking may be difficult, feeling less lonely seems like a much more difficult goal to achieve. Quitting smoking is mostly an individual effort, and thus something more directly under one’s control; feeling less lonely obviously requires at least one other person, and thus is not as much under one’s control.
That’s why I say, if you are going to quit smoking, don’t lose a friend along the way, Otherwise, there’s potentially no net health benefit.
I came across one other stat I found interesting about loneliness, from a study conducted by Cigna.
Gen Zers (adults ages 18-22) surveyed have a total average loneliness score of 48.3 – granting them the title of the loneliest generation – while scores gradually drop as respondents continue to age, culminating in a total average loneliness score of 38.6 for the least lonely group, the Greatest Generation (adults ages 72+).
I would have guessed the exact opposite, since it seems a lot of what I have read about loneliness over the past couple of years focused on the elderly.
While I did write recently about loneliness on college campuses, I was not aware it was an even bigger problem than I imagined.
I don’t have any advice on how one can improve upon a feeling of loneliness, but I can say that if you are successful in feeling less isolated, don’t ruin such an improvement by taking up smoking.