MNA Life Style Desk: Loneliness has increased with modernization, since people are engrossed in virtual social communities and networks and don’t have the urge to attend social gathering or stay in touch with family and friends.
Loneliness is hardly seen as a serious disorder, but in reality, chronic loneliness and feelings of alienation can be extremely detrimental to health. It can induce alcoholism, make a person suicidal and increase the risk of mental health disorders.
Risk of dementia
Chronic loneliness can mingle with normal brain functions and increase the risk of neurodegenerative disorders like Dementia. It has been seen that those living alone or staying in nursing homes and old age institutions have greater chances of developing dementia than those staying with their families.
The feeling of loneliness raises the risk of Dementia by 64%. The opposite also holds true, that initiation of Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can also lead to social withdrawal and loneliness – one of the mental diseases symptoms.
Increased risk of heart disease
The genes of chronically lonely individuals experience overexpression that leads to long-term inflammation and damage to the tissues and blood vessels of the heart increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
Inflammation is an important function of the body and short term inflammation is essential for fighting infections, but chronic inflammation for a prolonged period increases the risk of cancer and therefore, anti-inflammatory medicines can be beneficial for people who cannot come out of their shell of loneliness.
Brain like physical pain
Loneliness is one of the major causes of mental diseases and the sense of isolation can have a similar effect on brain that is noted when an individual experiences physical pain. The brains of lonely individuals register feelings of threat and pain signals that are similar to real physical pain and danger.
Reduce life expectancy
Although we ignore loneliness as just a temporary phase or transitory feeling, it can be fatal enough to cause premature death. Studies show that people who live unaccompanied are more likely to have an early death caused by stroke, heart attacks or other complications that those who live with their family or in a communal institution.
In the case of older individuals, those who reported feeling isolated, rejected or lonely had an increased chance of dying even though they were not living alone practically.
The chronic depression and anxiety prevents them from falling asleep and also makes it difficult to stay asleep leading to sleeping disorders and insomnia. Loneliness hinders restful sleep and it is seen that lonely people experience broken sleep and are awakened several times during the night.