Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy
Showing posts with label Loneliness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Loneliness. Show all posts

Monday, November 13, 2023

Prosociality should be a public health priority

Kubzansky, L.D., Epel, E.S. & Davidson, R.J. 
Nat Hum Behav (2023).


Hopelessness and despair threaten health and longevity. We urgently need strategies to counteract these effects and improve population health. Prosociality contributes to better mental and physical health for individuals, and for the communities in which they live. We propose that prosociality should be a public health priority.


The COVID-19 pandemic produced high levels of stress, loneliness, and mental health problems, magnifying global trends in health disparities.1 Hopelessness and despair are growing problems particularly in the U.S. The sharp increase in rates of poor mental health is problematic in its own right, but poor mental health also contributes to greater morbidity and mortality. Without action, we will see steep declines in global population health and related costs to society. An approach that is “more of the same” is insufficient to stem the cascading effects of emotional ill-being. Something new is desperately needed.

To this point, recent work called on the discipline of psychiatry to contribute more meaningfully to the deaths of despair framework (i.e., conceptualizing rises in suicide, drug poisoning and alcoholic liver disease as due to misery of difficult social and economic circumstances).2 Recognizing that simply expanding mental health services cannot address the problem, the authors noted the importance of population-level prevention and targeting macro-level causes for intervention. This requires identifying upstream factors causally related to these deaths. However, factors explaining population health trends are poorly delineated and focus on risks and deficits (e.g., adverse childhood experiences, unemployment). A ‘deficit-based’ approach has limits as the absence of a risk factor does not inevitably indicate presence of a protective asset; we also need an ‘assetbased’ approach to understanding more comprehensively the forces that shape good health and buffer harmful effects of stress and adversity.

My take:

Prosociality refers to positive behaviors and beliefs that benefit others. It is a broad concept that encompasses many different qualities, such as altruism, trust, reciprocity, compassion, and empathy.

Research has shown that prosociality has a number of benefits for both individuals and communities. For individuals, prosociality can lead to improved mental and physical health, greater life satisfaction, and stronger social relationships. For communities, prosociality can lead to increased trust and cooperation, reduced crime rates, and improved overall well-being.

The authors of the article argue that prosociality should be a public health priority. They point out that prosociality can help to address a number of major public health challenges, such as loneliness, social isolation, and mental illness. They also argue that prosociality can help to build stronger communities and create a more just and equitable society.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Is loneliness in emerging adults increasing over time? A preregistered cross-temporal meta-analysis and systematic review

Buecker, S., Mund, M., Chwastek, S., Sostmann, M.,
& Luhmann, M. (2021). 
Psychological Bulletin, 147(8), 787–805.


Judged by the sheer amount of global media coverage, loneliness rates seem to be an increasingly urgent societal concern. From the late 1970s onward, the life experiences of emerging adults have been changing massively due to societal developments such as increased fragmentation of social relationships, greater mobility opportunities, and changes in communication due to technological innovations. These societal developments might have coincided with an increase in loneliness in emerging adults. In the present preregistered cross-temporal meta-analysis, we examined whether loneliness levels in emerging adults have changed over the last 43 years. Our analysis is based on 449 means from 345 studies with 437 independent samples and a total of 124,855 emerging adults who completed the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Loneliness Scale between 1976 and 2019. Averaged across all studies, loneliness levels linearly increased with increasing calendar years (β = .224, 95% CI [.138, .309]). This increase corresponds to 0.56 standard deviations on the UCLA Loneliness Scale over the 43-year studied period. Overall, the results imply that loneliness can be a rising concern in emerging adulthood. Although the frequently used term “loneliness epidemic” seems exaggerated, emerging adults should therefore not be overlooked when designing interventions against loneliness.

Impact Statement

Public Significance Statement—The present cross-temporal meta-analysis suggests that loneliness in emerging adults slightly increased over historical time from 1976 until 2019. Consequently, emerging adults should not be overlooked when designing future interventions or public health campaigns against loneliness.

From the Discussion Section

Contrary to the idea that loneliness has sharply increased since smartphones gained market saturation (in about 2012; Twenge et al., 2018), our data showed that loneliness in emerging adults remained relatively stable since 2012 but gradually increased when looking at longer periods (i.e., from 1976 until 2019). It, therefore, seems unlikely that the increased smartphone use has led to increases in emerging adults’ loneliness. However, other societal developments since the late 1970s, such as greater mobility and fragmentation of social networks, may explain increases in emerging adults’ loneliness over historical time. Since our meta-analysis cannot provide information on other age  groups such as children and  adolescents,  the  role  of  smartphone  use  on  loneliness  could  be different in other age groups. 

Monday, December 5, 2022

Social isolation and the brain in the pandemic era

Bzdok, D., and Dunbar, R.
Nat Hum Behav 6, 1333–1343 (2022).


Intense sociality has been a catalyst for human culture and civilization, and our social relationships at a personal level play a pivotal role in our health and well-being. These relationships are, however, sensitive to the time we invest in them. To understand how and why this should be, we first outline the evolutionary background in primate sociality from which our human social world has emerged. We then review defining features of that human sociality, putting forward a framework within which one can understand the consequences of mass social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, including mental health deterioration, stress, sleep disturbance and substance misuse. We outline recent research on the neural basis of prolonged social isolation, highlighting especially higher-order neural circuits such as the default mode network. Our survey of studies covers the negative effects of prolonged social deprivation and the multifaceted drivers of day-to-day pandemic experiences.


The human social world is deeply rooted in our primate ancestry. This social world is, however, extremely sensitive to the time we invest in it. Enforced social isolation can easily destabilize its delicate equilibrium. Many of the psychological sequalae of COVID-19 lockdowns are readily understood as resulting from the dislocation of these deeply rooted social processes. Indeed, many of these findings could have been anticipated long before the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, almost one in ten Europeans admitted never meeting friends or family outside of their own household in the course of an entire year, with direct consequences for their psychological and physical health. Solitary living made up >50% of households in a growing number of metropolitan cities worldwide and has long been thought to be the cause of increasing levels of depression and psychological dystopia. Indeed, aversive feelings of social isolation probably serve as a biological warning signal that alerts individuals to improve their social relationships.

Three key points emerge from our present assessment. One is that COVID-19 and associated public health restrictions to curb the spread of the virus are likely to have demonstrable mental health and psychosocial ramifications for years to come. This will inevitably place a significant burden on our health systems and societies. The impact may, however, be largely restricted to specific population strata. Older people, for example, are likely to face disproportionately adverse consequences. Worryingly, prolonged social isolation seems to invoke changes in the capacity to visualize internally centred thoughts, especially in younger sub-population. This may presage a switch from an outward to an inward focus that may exacerbate the experience of social isolation in susceptible individuals. The longer-term implications of this are, however, yet to be determined. Second, the experience of undergoing social isolation is known to have significant effects on the structure and function of the hippocampus and default network, long recognized as a primary neural pathway implicated in the pathophysiology of dementia and other major neurodegenerative diseases as well as in effective social function. The fact that these same brain regions turn up in the neuroanatomical consequences of COVID-19 infection is concerning. Our third key point is that social determinants that condition inequality in our societies have strong impacts on lived day-to-day pandemic experiences. This is highlighted by the negative outcomes from COVID-19 for families of lower socio-economic status, single-parent households, and those with racial and ethnic minority backgrounds.

As a note of caution, in our judgement, few datasets or methodological tools exist today to definitively establish causal directionality in many of the population effects we have surveyed in this review. For example, many of the correlative links do not allow us to infer whether loneliness directly causes depression and anxiety, as opposed to already depressed, anxious individuals being more prone to developing loneliness in times of adversity. Similarly, none of the reviewed findings can be used to tease apart whether changes in psychopathology during periods of mass social isolation are the chicken or the egg of the many biological manifestations. To fill knowledge gaps on mediating mechanisms for theoretical models, future research requires carefully designed and controlled longitudinal before-versus-after COVID-19 population investigations.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

What Makes a Great Life?

Jon Clifton
Originally posted 22 SEPT 22

While many things contribute to a great life, Gallup finds five aspects that all people have in common: their work, finances, physical health, communities, and relationships with family and friends. If you are excelling in each of these elements of wellbeing, you are highly likely to be thriving in life.


Gallup's research as well as research by the global community of wellbeing practitioners has produced hundreds, if not thousands, of discoveries.

One of the most famous discoveries is the U-curve of happiness, which shows how age is associated with wellbeing. Young people rate their lives high, and so do older people. But middle-aged people rate their lives the lowest. This trend holds every year in almost every country in the world. It is nicknamed the "U-curve" of happiness because when you look at the graph, it looks like a "U." Some jokingly say that the chart is smiling.

Some discoveries are astonishing; others feel like they reveal a "blandly sophomoric secret," as George Gallup referred to some of his longevity findings. For example, you could argue that the U-curve of happiness simply quantifies conventional wisdom -- that people have midlife crises.

Here are a few of the discoveries that are truly compelling:
  • People who love their jobs do not hate Mondays.
  • Education-related debt can cause an emotional scar that remains even after you pay off the debt.
  • Volunteering is not just good for the people you are helping; it is also good for you.
  • Exercising is better at eliminating fatigue than prescription drugs.
  • Loneliness can double your risk of dying from heart disease.
We could list every insight ever produced from this research and encourage leaders to work on all of them. Instead, we took another approach. Using all these insights from across the industry combined with our surveys and analysis, we created the five elements of wellbeing. And our ongoing global research confirms that the five elements of wellbeing are significant drivers of a great life everywhere.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Moral Injury, Traumatic Stress, and Threats to Core Human Needs in Health-Care Workers: The COVID-19 Pandemic as a Dehumanizing Experience

Hagerty, S. L., & Williams, L. M. (2022)
Clinical Psychological Science. 


The pandemic has threatened core human needs. The pandemic provides a context to study psychological injury as it relates to unmet basic human needs and traumatic stressors, including moral incongruence. We surveyed 1,122 health-care workers from across the United States between May 2020 and August 2020. Using a mixed-methods design, we examined moral injury and unmet basic human needs in relation to traumatic stress and suicidality. Nearly one third of respondents reported elevated symptoms of psychological trauma, and the prevalence of suicidal ideation among health-care workers in our sample was roughly 3 times higher than in the general population. Moral injury and loneliness predict greater symptoms of traumatic stress and suicidality. We conclude that dehumanization is a driving force behind the psychological injury resulting from moral incongruence in the context of the pandemic. The pandemic most frequently threatened basic human motivations at the foundational level of safety and security relative to other higher order needs.

From the General Discussion

A subset of respondents added context to their experiences of moral injury in the form of narrative responses. These powerful accounts of the lived experiences of health-care workers provided us with a richer understanding of the construct of moral injury, especially as it relates to the novel context of the pandemic. Although betrayal is a known facet of moral injury from prior work (Bryan et al., 2016), our qualitative analysis suggests that dehumanization may also be a key phenomenon that underlies pandemic-related moral injury. Given our findings, we suggest that it may be important to attend to both betrayal and dehumanization when researching or intervening on the psychological sequelae of the pandemic. Our results support this because experiences of dehumanization in our sample were associated with greater symptoms of traumatic stress.

Another lens through which to view the experiences of health-care workers in the pandemic is through unsatisfied basic human motivations. Given the obvious barriers the pandemic presents to human connection (Hagerty & Williams, 2020), we had an a priori interest in studying loneliness. Our results indeed suggest that need of social connection appears relevant to the mental-health experiences of health-care workers during the pandemic such that loneliness was associated with greater traumatic stress, moral injury, and suicidal ideation. Echoing the importance of this social factor are findings from prior research suggesting that social connectedness buffers the association between moral injury and suicidality (Kelley et al., 2019) and buffers the impact of PTSD symptoms on suicidal behavior (Panagioti et al., 2014). Thus, our work further highlights lack of social connection as possible risk factor among individuals who face moral injury and traumatic stress and demonstrates its relevance to the mental health of health-care workers during the pandemic.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Japan has appointed a 'Minister of Loneliness' after seeing suicide rates in the country increase for the first time in 11 years

Kaite Warren
Originally posted 22 Feb 21

Here is an excerpt:

Loneliness has long been an issue in Japan, often discussed alongside "hikikomori," or people who live in extreme social isolation. People have worked to create far-ranging solutions to this issue: Engineers in Japan previously designed a robot to hold someone's hand when they're lonely and one man charges people to "do nothing" except keep them company.

A rise in suicides during the pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with people more socially isolated than ever, Japan saw a rise in suicides for the first time in 11 years.

In October, more people died from suicide than had died from COVID-19 in Japan in all of 2020. There were 2,153 suicide deaths that month and 1,765 total virus deaths up to the end of October 2020, per the Japanese National Police Agency. (After a surge in new cases starting in December, Japan has now recorded 7,506 total coronavirus deaths as of February 22.) Studies show that loneliness has been linked to a higher risk of health issues like heart disease, dementia, and eating disorders.

Women in Japan, in particular, have contributed to the uptick in suicides. In October, 879 women died by suicide in Japan — a 70% increase compared to the same month in 2019. 

More and more single women live alone in Japan, but many of them don't have stable employment, Michiko Ueda, a Japanese professor who studies suicide in Japan, told the BBC last week.

"A lot of women are not married anymore," Ueda said. "They have to support their own lives and they don't have permanent jobs. So, when something happens, of course, they are hit very, very hard."

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Conspiracy Theorists May Really Just Be Lonely

Matthew Hutson
Scientific American
Originally posted 1 May 17

Conspiracy theorists are often portrayed as nutjobs, but some may just be lonely, recent studies suggest. Separate research has shown that social exclusion creates a feeling of meaninglessness and that the search for meaning leads people to perceive patterns in randomness. A new study in the March issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology connects the dots, reporting that ostracism enhances superstition and belief in conspiracies.

In one experiment, people wrote about a recent unpleasant interaction with friends, then rated their feelings of exclusion, their search for purpose in life, their belief in two conspiracies (that the government uses subliminal messages and that drug companies withhold cures), and their faith in paranormal activity in the Bermuda Triangle. The more excluded people felt, the greater their desire for meaning and the more likely they were to harbor suspicions.

In a second experiment, college students were made to feel excluded or included by their peers, then read two scenarios suggestive of conspiracies (price-fixing, office sabotage) and one about a made-up good-luck ritual (stomping one's feet before a meeting). Those who were excluded reported greater connection between behaviors and outcomes in the stories compared with those who were included.

Monday, November 30, 2020

In Japan, more people died from suicide last month than from Covid in all of 2020

S. Wang, R. Wright, & Y. Wakatsuki
Originally posted 29 Nov 20

Here is an excerpt:

In Japan, government statistics show suicide claimed more lives in October than Covid-19 has over the entire year to date. The monthly number of Japanese suicides rose to 2,153 in October, according to Japan's National Police Agency. As of Friday, Japan's total Covid-19 toll was 2,087, the health ministry said.

Japan is one of the few major economies to disclose timely suicide data -- the most recent national data for the US, for example, is from 2018. The Japanese data could give other countries insights into the impact of pandemic measures on mental health, and which groups are the most vulnerable.

"We didn't even have a lockdown, and the impact of Covid is very minimal compared to other countries ... but still we see this big increase in the number of suicides," said Michiko Ueda, an associate professor at Waseda University in Tokyo, and an expert on suicides.

"That suggests other countries might see a similar or even bigger increase in the number of suicides in the future."


Compounding those worries about income, women have been dealing with skyrocketing unpaid care burdens, according to the study. For those who keep their jobs, when children are sent home from school or childcare centers, it often falls to mothers to take on those responsibilities, as well as their normal work duties.

Increased anxiety about the health and well-being of children has also put an extra burden on mothers during the pandemic.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Where loneliness can lead

Samantha Rose Hill
Originally published 16 Oct 20

Here is an excerpt:

Why loneliness is not obvious.

Arendt’s answer was: because loneliness radically cuts people off from human connection. She defined loneliness as a kind of wilderness where a person feels deserted by all worldliness and human companionship, even when surrounded by others. The word she used in her mother tongue for loneliness was Verlassenheit – a state of being abandoned, or abandon-ness. Loneliness, she argued, is ‘among the most radical and desperate experiences of man’, because in loneliness we are unable to realise our full capacity for action as human beings. When we experience loneliness, we lose the ability to experience anything else; and, in loneliness, we are unable to make new beginnings.

In order to illustrate why loneliness is the essence of totalitarianism and the common ground of terror, Arendt distinguished isolation from loneliness, and loneliness from solitude. Isolation, she argued, is sometimes necessary for creative activity. Even the mere reading of a book, she says requires some degree of isolation. One must intentionally turn away from the world to make space for the experience of solitude but, once alone, one is always able to turn back.

Totalitarianism uses isolation to deprive people of human companionship, making action in the world impossible, while destroying the space of solitude. The iron-band of totalitarianism, as Arendt calls it, destroys man’s ability to move, to act, and to think, while turning each individual in his lonely isolation against all others, and himself. The world becomes a wilderness, where neither experience nor thinking are possible.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

In the face of Covid-19, the U.S. needs to change how it deals with mental illness

Jeffrey Geller
Originally posted 29 May 20

Here are two excerpts:

Frontline physicians, nurses, and other health care workers are looking death in the face every day. Shift workers in economically treacherous situations are forced to risk their health for a paycheck. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs. Still more are separated from the people they love, their daily routines have been disrupted, and they are making anxious choices every day that affect their physical and mental health.


Second, Covid-19 has laid bare the severe doctor shortage across the United States, and that shortage includes psychiatrists. While every kind of mental health professional is necessary and indeed critical to responding to the crisis, psychiatrists bring unique expertise in serving some of the most severely compromised patients in psychiatric units and hospitals, long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, and jails and prisons. Forgiving some of the debt that students amass during medical school would incentivize more individuals to serve in these capacities, as would lifting caps on federal funding for new residency slots.

Third, we needed more psychiatric beds in hospitals before Covid-19, and need even more now as physical distancing continues — yet some hospitals have decreased the number of psychiatric beds by converting them to beds for individuals with Covid-19. Patients in psychiatric units who contract Covid-19 need to be separated from other patients. We currently do not have enough beds to treat everyone for the length of time they need. Without federal funding for psychiatric beds, we will have an increase in deaths from the mental health sequelae of Covid-19.

The info is here.

Friday, April 5, 2019

A Prominent Economist’s Death Prompts Talk of Mental Health in the Professoriate

Emma Pettit
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally posted March 19, 2019

Reaching Out

For Bruce Macintosh, Krueger’s death was a reminder of how isolating academe can be. Macintosh is a professor of physics at Stanford University who was employed at a national laboratory, not a university, until about five years ago. That culture was totally different, he said. At other workplaces, Macintosh said, you interact regularly with peers and supervisors, who are paying close attention to you and your work.

“There’s nothing like that in an academic environment,” he said. “You can shut down completely for a year, and no one will notice,” as long as the grades get turned in.

It seems, Macintosh said, as if there should be multiple layers of support within a university department to help faculty members who experience depression or other forms of mental illness. But certain barriers still exist between professors and the resources they need.

A 2017 survey of 267 faculty members with mental-health histories or mental illnesses found that most respondents had little to no familiarity with accommodations at their institution. Even fewer reported using them.

The info is here.

Note: Career success, wealth, and prestige are not protective factors for suicide attempts or completions.  Interpersonal connections to family and friends, access to quality mental health care, problem-solving skills, meaning in life, and purposefulness are.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Alone Together: Who's Lonely and How Do We Measure It?

Tom Harrison
The RSA.org
Originally published January 18, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

What affect does loneliness have on our health?

Neuroscientist John Cacioppo’s seminal work published in ‘Loneliness: Human Nature and Need for Social Connection’ was one of the first to study the health impacts of loneliness. He found that lonely people have a 20 per cent higher premature mortality rate and called for a culture shift that would see loneliness as important a public health issue as obesity. The Campaign to End Loneliness acknowledges this; reporting that 3 out of 4 GPs say they see between 1 and 5 people a day who have come in mainly because they are lonely.

Indeed, research tells us that this phenomenon goes far beyond the familiar stereotype of an isolated grandmother. A recent British Red Cross report found that 32 per cent of those aged 16-24 reported that in the past 2 weeks they had often or always felt lonely. Are 1/3 of young people just snowflakes? It seems unlikely.

This has contributed to pressure for government to respond. But how do we measure the problem and what are responses required to tackle it?

The article is here.

Note to Reader: Psychotherapy can help with loneliness.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Loneliness Might Be a Killer, but What’s the Best Way to Protect Against It?

Rita Rubin
JAMA. 2017;318(19):1853-1855.

Here is an excerpt:

“I think that it’s clearly a [health] risk factor,” first author Nancy Donovan, MD, said of loneliness. “Various types of psychosocial stress appear to be bad for the human body and brain and are clearly associated with lots of adverse health consequences.”

Though the findings overall are mixed, the best current evidence suggests that loneliness may cause adverse health effects by promoting inflammation, said Donovan, a geriatric psychiatrist at the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Loneliness might also be an early, relatively easy-to-detect marker for preclinical Alzheimer disease, suggests an article Donovan coauthored. She and her collaborators recently reported in JAMA Psychiatry that loneliness was associated with a higher cortical amyloid burden in 79 cognitively normal elderly adults. Cortical amyloid burden is being investigated as a potential biomarker for identifying asymptomatic adults with the greatest risk of Alzheimer disease. However, large-scale population screening for amyloid burden is unlikely to be practical.

Regardless of whether loneliness turns out to be a marker for preclinical Alzheimer disease, enough is known about its health effects that physicians need to be able to recognize it, Holt-Lunstad says.

“The cumulative evidence points to the benefit of including social factors in medical training and continuing education for health care professionals,” she and Brigham Young colleague Timothy Smith, PhD, wrote in an editorial.

The article is here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Work and the Loneliness Epidemic

Vivek Murphy
Harvard Business Review

Here is an excerpt:

During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness. The elderly man who came to our hospital every few weeks seeking relief from chronic pain was also looking for human connection: He was lonely. The middle-aged woman battling advanced HIV who had no one to call to inform that she was sick: She was lonely too. I found that loneliness was often in the background of clinical illness, contributing to disease and making it harder for patients to cope and heal.

This may not surprise you. Chances are, you or someone you know has been struggling with loneliness. And that can be a serious problem. Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity. But we haven’t focused nearly as much effort on strengthening connections between people as we have on curbing tobacco use or obesity. Loneliness is also associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety. At work, loneliness reduces task performance, limits creativity, and impairs other aspects of executive function such as reasoning and decision making. For our health and our work, it is imperative that we address the loneliness epidemic quickly.

Once we understand the profound human and economic costs of loneliness, we must determine whose responsibility it is to address the problem.

The article is here.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Burnout at Work Isn’t Just About Exhaustion. It’s Also About Loneliness

Emma Seppala and Marissa King
Harvard Business Review
First published June 29, 2017

More and more people are feeling tired and lonely at work. In analyzing the General Social Survey of 2016, we found that, compared with roughly 20 years ago, people are twice as likely to report that they are always exhausted. Close to 50% of people say they are often or always exhausted due to work. This is a shockingly high statistic — and it’s a 32% increase from two decades ago. What’s more, there is a significant correlation between feeling lonely and work exhaustion: The more people are exhausted, the lonelier they feel.

This loneliness is not a result of social isolation, as you might think, but rather is due to the emotional exhaustion of workplace burnout. In researching the book The Happiness Track, we found that 50% of people — across professions, from the nonprofit sector to the medical field — are burned out. This isn’t just a problem for busy, overworked executives (though the high rates of loneliness and burnout among this group are well known). Our work suggests that the problem is pervasive across professions and up and down corporate hierarchies.

Loneliness, whether it results from social isolation or exhaustion, has serious consequences for individuals. John Cacioppo, a leading expert on loneliness and coauthor of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, emphasizes its tremendous impact on psychological and physical health and longevity. Research by Sarah Pressman, of the University of California, Irvine, corroborates his work and demonstrates that while obesity reduces longevity by 20%, drinking by 30%, and smoking by 50%, loneliness reduces it by a whopping 70%. In fact, one study suggests that loneliness increases your chance of stroke or coronary heart disease — the leading cause of death in developed countries — by 30%. On the other hand, feelings of social connection can strengthen our immune system, lengthen our life, and lower rates of anxiety and depression.