Thursday, 18 April 2013

Caution: Loneliness can kill

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The Challenge Network is the national charity for bringing local people together.  We build trust between people of different ages, incomes and ethnicities.

That’s why loneliness is a very real worry for us. For if there’s one thing worse than being in one group and distrusting another, it’s being in no group at all and distrusting everyone.

That’s why this week we’re blogging about loneliness.

We know that loneliness is a common problem especially for the older generation – 5 million of whom say that the TV is their main companion.

What you might not know is how dangerous to your health and well-being loneliness is. Consider these three facts:
– Lonely people have higher levels of anxiety; scientists at the University of Chicago found that lonely people are more anxious and produce more cortisol- a hormone produced when we are stressed.
– Lonely people are more likely to fall ill; psychologists at University of Chicago and Ohio State University have shown that lonely people develop changes in their immune system, which leads to a condition called chronic inflammation which can make cardiovascular disease and cancer more common.
– If they fall seriously ill, lonely people are less likely to recover; a 2006 study of 2,800 women who had breast cancer showed those who saw few friends or family were as much as five times more likely to die of their disease than women with many social contacts.

This is bleak news. But – look at it another way – if we can reduce loneliness by bringing people together we reduce anxiety, illness,  and we increase survival rates.

Which leaves one question: how do we reduce the number of lonely people? More tomorrow.

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