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What’s Worse Than Obesity? Experts Say Loneliness

By Ruthie Hawkins

A new study suggests that loneliness could become an even bigger public health threat than obesity.
According to an AARP’s Loneliness Study, presented at the 2017 annual convention of the American Psychological Association, people have felt increasingly lonely and isolated in recent years. The physical and psychological ramifications could prove more detrimental than the effects of obesity.

“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University and lead author of the study, in a press release.

The study, consisting of two meta-analyses of previous data covering 218 studies, discovered that social isolation, including living alone, caused the risk of premature death to surge. Shockingly, the findings indicated a greater impact on dying early than obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 40 percent of adults age 20 and over are obese. While, children age 12-19 pose the greatest risk of obesity, at just over 20 percent.

How to Combat Loneliness
So, how does one combat loneliness? The answer could be as simple as visiting your local recreation center, the study states.

Additionally, people should prepare for retirement socially as well as financially, as many social ties are related to the workplace, Holt-Lunstad noted. She added community planners should make sure to include shared social spaces that encourage gathering and interaction, such as recreation centers and community gardens.

Other ways to get up, get out, and interact include:
Get help: Understand that loneliness is a feeling and not a fact. Because it can be painful, plugging into care, rather than withdrawing from others is a first step.

Try a hobby: You are not alone. Love hiking, biking, running, even knitting? Identify and join groups with common interests – a natural basis for the beginning of a friendship.

Volunteer: Everyone has a passion. Find a way to lend your time with a movement or organization that aligns with what makes you tick.

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