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How Feeling Lonely Can Kill You, And How You Can Beat It

lonely

As we age, quite often our social circles change. Major life transitions play a role in our relationships – we move cities and find new friend groups. We break off a marriage and lose the relationships that came with it. We retire and spend less time with our former colleagues. We become empty nesters and spend more time traveling than conversing with other parents. Needless to say, life happens.

But as all of these life transitions occur, sometimes it can be difficult to fill the relationship voids. Especially in retirement or after the break of a marriage, we struggle to find ways to enter a new social circle. And before you know it, loneliness sets in and you long for that social engagement and support you once had. Some find comfort in being alone and independent, but unfortunately, we are not all aware of the health consequences that come with feeling lonely.

Loneliness, A Deadly Feeling

A recent study at the University of Chicago found that loneliness is actually a greater health risk than obesity. In fact, it has twice the effect on early death as does obesity. The study found that loneliness increases your chances of premature death by 14% and even increases your risk of cognitive decline. Furthermore, it elevates blood pressure, disrupts your sleep pattern, increases stress hormone levels, alters immunity cells, and puts you at greater risk for cardiovascular disease. In regards to mental health, loneliness can lower your overall wellbeing, leading to depression and anxiety.

shutterstock_146831495According to a study conducted by AARP in 2010, over 1/3 of adults over 45 reported feeling lonely. However, most adults don’t even recognize that they are feeling lonely, and if they do, they don’t realize just how much it is altering their physical health. John Cacioppo, the leading professor in the study at the University of Chicago, discovered that the true health consequences don’t necessarily come from the physical isolation itself, but rather “the subjective sense of isolation,” so sometimes it is not so obvious when an individual is experiencing feelings of loneliness.

Cacioppo notes that adults living at home alone do not necessarily feel lonely if they are socially engaged in their community and “enjoy the company of those around them.” On the other hand, even when an adult is living with a spouse or is surrounded by friends, he or she can still experience loneliness and the physical consequences that come with it. In fact, a recent study found that 62.5% of people who reported feeling lonely were married and living with their partner. Loneliness can come in all variations, and often the true battle is simply recognizing it.

How To Conquer Feeling Lonely

Regardless of when or to what extent we feel lonely, it is important that we take action to avoid these sentiments for the sake of our physical and mental health. Cacioppo has identified three types of relationships that are important for us to feel as human beings: intimate connectedness, relational connectedness, and collective connectedness.

lonelyIntimate connectedness is what we feel when we have a relationship that affirms who we are, relational connectedness comes from mutually-rewarding relationships that are face-to-face contacts, and collective connectedness comes from those relationships that allow us to feel a part of a larger group beyond our individual existence. As human beings, we crave these three types of relationships, and it is important that we seek them out, especially when we find our social circles shrinking.

According to Cacioppo, we can avoid loneliness by staying in touch with previous co-workers, sharing experiences with friends, and taking part in family traditions. These all allow us to feel connected with those we care about most.

At Stitch, we are committed to helping others combat loneliness. That’s why we offer ways to connect one-on-one with those in your area for intimate and relational connectedness. We also offer group discussions, events, and travel opportunities to give everyone the chance to feel collective connectedness as well.

If you find yourself feeling lonely or are interested in the topic of loneliness, please consider the resources below:

All the Lonely People, A blog about loneliness by Jennifer Page, author of “Freedom from Loneliness”

ALonelyWorld.com, A destination for healing, sharing and caring about loneliness

– How To Deal With Loneliness, An article about how to deal with loneliness including tips for becoming socially connected

Let’s Talk About Loneliness, A video interviewing people about their thoughts regarding loneliness and what can be done to help

Lonely People Champion, A website all about loneliness including tools for overcoming the feeling

Together But Still Lonely, An article including tips on fighting loneliness during marriage

Why Loneliness May Be the Next Big Public-Health Issue, An article in Time Magazine about the risks of loneliness

29 Comments

  1. Linda

    I’am a very busy but would like to meet a man that would like to spend time with. I like the theater , music , dancing. Good conversation is very important. Linda

    1. Marcie Rogo

      Hi Linda,
      Thank you so much for your comment. Many of our members are very busy, and fulfilled, but have room for someone to do special things with, like the activities you mentioned. We would love to help you find a companion. Just click the “Sign up” at the top of this page. It’s about a 5 minute process.
      Marcie

  2. Teresa

    I live alone, my sons never visiting me, I don’t have friends not because I don’t want but I don’t find
    some nice gentlemen or nice people for I talking, I need go out of this situation, I start fill depressed with my life the moment, after retired.
    I wish have some advise.
    Thank you
    Teresa

    1. Marcie Rogo

      Dear Teresa,
      Thank you so much for sharing your personal story. This happens to so many people who live alone, and I hope that Stitch can help you find activity partners and companions so that you can feel better and less lonely.

    2. Mr.Harsh

      I feel very bad for you, Teresa.

      May God help you.

  3. elana s

    this article about loneliness is certainly not news to me. In the course of the last 22 years the amount of human contact that I have is less than prisoners who are locked away in solitary confinement! I have watch the way this is torn down my physical and mental health. It was it was a result of a very long period of homelessness and being in a very violent situation. In the last 2 years I am in the same situation but I’m out on medical disability so it seems like people only want to be acquaintances they don’t want to be friends I go years without even someone to go to a meal with and I’ve been very proactive about trying to change my life

    1. Andrew Dowling

      Hi Elana,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with us … I’m really sorry to hear your story but I am very glad you found Stitch. We’re very passionate about creating an environment that can provide opportunities for companionship for everyone, no matter who they are. We’re still obviously quite new and don’t have a large membership yet in your area, but we know we’re going to get there! And when we do I certainly hope you’re able to meet people through Stitch who you can be friends with.

      You’re not the first person to mention disability being a barrier to us either — and once we’ve got the Stitch community built this is actually something we’d really like to put some work into to see if there are any things we can do to help in this area too.

      Many thanks,
      Andrew Dowling
      CEO
      Stitch

    2. Kendra

      Hi. Where do you live. We could talk.

  4. catherine

    Hi elana. ..I’m just looking for new friends where do you live.

    1. Andrew Dowling

      Hi Catherine,

      I appreciate you’re looking for new friends (and I’ve seen a few of your other comments about members in the UK which I’ll also respond to) but we strongly recommend never giving out identifying information such as address or location over the internet on a public blog like this. If you log in to Stitch you’ll see the events and activities being held near you, and also be able to browse for profiles of people in your area — as well as take part in travel opportunities with Stitch members from around the world.

      Many thanks,
      Andrew.

  5. Real Truth

    It is very extremely hard to beat Loneliness if you Don’t have a loved one to be with. But if you have a lot of Money and Single friends which it certainly does Ease the pain quite a bit.

  6. j a c k

    I remember that as a child, I was told over and over again, not to talk to strangers. Now as a youth I listened (mostly) but nearly every interesting person I’ve ever me, outside of family and friends of the family, all began as strangers to me. We don’t live to be 1,000 years old so our time to have fun, meet interesting people and enrich our lives grows shorter every day. Sure, I’m lonely at times but I can always choose not to be. All I need to do is find some other lonely soul to befriend and usually (99% of the time) my emptiness is gone. It always returns but not nearly as often or frequently as in years past. Take a chance, say hello when someone says hello to you. If someone holds a door for you, be gracious. The world will be a little better for you doing so and I fail to see the downside in that. Hey, that smile you gave me the other day? I’m wearing it still!! Thank you! Better to light a single candle than to sit and curse the darkness. Namaste!

  7. alonecanadian

    20 years… friends don’t notice me… no one starts a conversation with me. i live every day in silence alone, getting through the day feeling like my chest is going to explode from being crushed. no one understands… i tried reaching out for help…. but everyone else already has those close connections… even though they will say they don’t have the time…. facebook doesn’t lie. people have made promises to me to get together…. which always go “forgotten”. if I wasn’t so strong, I would have already killed myself… but i’m not allowed to do that either. again… people don’t understand. no one can; for the pain i carry is extremely rare. i can’t wait for my health to decline so i can go peacefully. i want to live surrounded by friends; but i’m destined to die completely alone.

    1. Andrew Dowling

      Hi A,

      I’m so sorry you’re having such a tough time. Someone in my family who has depression is constantly telling me that I don’t understand what it feels like, and that’s very true … but I do know that it is truly difficult to deal with, particularly on your own.

      I can’t say that Stitch would necessarily provide the answer for you, but it is true that many of our members have come to us because they’ve felt like you, and have found new connections through the Stitch community. Our goal is to help people find connections who most need it … and one thing that all our members have in common is that they know they need some new companionship and connections in their lives. I don’t know where you live, but I hope you check the community out and see if there is a place in it for you, we’d love to help.

      Andrew.

    2. Donna

      Awwe, I’m sorry you feel so alone. I lost most of my family and live alone. I have never felt so alone in my life? I have friends I talk to in other states and even a sister here, she has her own family. I get so lonely at times I welcome the end of my life I just want to die? I’m fighting this loveliness everyday and it sucks!!! I’m a fighter and refuse to stay this way!..I’m doing the on line dating and hoping to meet a companion? Anyways I do understand your loneliness. I am alone and no one seems to understand?….

      1. alonecanadian

        no one does… because people have friends, or a family… i try the online dating thing too… but i meet people who want so much more than i have; or they just want to use me for whatever reason…. but i survive still…. i can’t give up; and at least, once and awhile… someone notices me.

        I notice you Donna. Hi. 🙂 We’re not alone.

        Andrew… it is hard. I posted this and forgot about it; but I did come back… so I guess we’ll see how this goes. Thank you.

      2. c.

        59, divorced, estranged from daughter, No boyfriend. I have a family with their own successful lives and they have money and boast about trips abroad, house renovations, etc. I rent and barely make ends meet. parents still alive and grateful for that. Still lonely. no friends here in L.A. and mostly want to die. very depressed. Think that dying will resolve my issues.

        1. Andrew Dowling

          Hi C,

          It’s Andrew here, founder of Stitch. I saw your comment and immediately felt I needed to reach out to you. Don’t give up! As someone whose life has been touched by suicide, I can tell you that it really isn’t the solution … and that all the issues you are going through right now will eventually pass. I have been lucky enough to have met hundreds of Stitch members who have been in situations similar to yours, and have been inspired to see them hang in there and eventually rebuild their social connections and become full of life once again. I’ve had several members tell me they were contemplating suicide before they found enriching social connections through Stitch.

          We don’t have a thriving community in LA yet but we’re working on it, as we know how alienating the city can be. We’re putting more work in to Stitch for free members as we do understand that some people are on a tight budget and need to find ways to connect with people that don’t cost anything. The great news is that it’s possible … it may take us a little while, but we’ve seen the positive impact that social connections can have on people, and it really IS likely that things will turn around if you are patient and give it a chance. I guarantee there are people out there who want to help (me included!). Depression is very tough to deal with but I’ve seen plenty of people come through it and I’m sure you can to. Please hang in there and let us know if there is anything we can do to help.

          Andrew.

  8. Samantha amsterdam

    I haven’t read about a situation like mine
    My husband of 25 years died
    1 12 years ago His 3 children and 9 grandchildren deserted me because of the inheretance
    They claim that he promised them half of our 2 homes. He died intestate and the property went to me. terror has overwhelmed me without my extended family

  9. Zara

    Loneliness sucks! So called friends and some Family, the ones who are Married and have a Family look down upon those who are single and kind of poor. When your single you dont really get invited out, when your on a low income, you dont get invited out. Loneliness is horrible,

    1. Allen

      Yes it does! When I was doing well for myself I had lots of friends, then the onset of MS came along and it all went south! Now broke and on disability I spend 95% of my time in isolation. It becomes unbearable at times.

      1. BelladonnicHaze

        Hi, Allen:

        I have experienced the loss of friends after falling on hard times, too. Even after I pulled myself out of a hole, they never came back. I spend a lot of days in isolation. It is soul-crushing.

  10. Jeff

    I definitely am a member of the lonely hearts club.
    When I was younger I was very out going and had lots of friends
    I was always doing something, but mostly sports related. Now I have bad knees
    and a bad back ( 2 surgeries) With out sports I do not know what to do with my time
    so I have gotten myself into a rut. I am trying hard to force myself into doing things but
    when I do it is still just me. I cant find groups for people over 50 and find myself getting
    depressed. Not giving up but getting frustrated.

  11. RJ

    I used to have a lots of friends since my childhood till my early forties. Then suddenly I got divorced and lost my very good job along with all my friends. It seems that the friends were there with me because of my financial and social status 🙁

    Now, though I feel happier to be alone than with wrong people but sometimes the loneliness attack gets the better of me.

  12. Shabana yasmin

    I am feeling so lonely nowadays….I am 18 years old nd I stay in hostel….myself an introvert..I dont have much friends in my life and I am always alone…this loneliness is mentally affecting me..it kills me ..I am searching for love and affection.I need some people in my life who really loves and cares for me but there is no such people in my life😓😓

  13. Randolph

    I am a widower, 52 years old, married 18 years, no children (by choice).

    I would dearly love to find a lady to share my life with.

  14. Marina

    I loss my my 2017. I took care of her at home until the end. I have siblings, a daughter and two grands. I am now living in the basement of my daughter’s house. They are too busy to spend time with me, but not too busy to go out with their friends.
    I feel very lonely. Am also suffering with anxiety. Would like to meet people and become friends with. Thanks Marina

    1. BelladonnicHaze

      Hi, Marina:

      I’m looking for friends as well.

  15. Gert

    I am profoundly lonely. I have been unsuccessful in making connections with people, failed relationships. Even my dog doesn’t like me. I am convinced that there is a real defect in my soul. I just keep overeating and sitting on my sofa watching TV. I really want to die.
    I have a plan

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