Can loneliness predict health and longevity?

Are you lonely?

Do you feel isolated?

If so, you aren’t alone.

And the sad reality is, these feelings don’t just make our hearts ache…

They threaten our very health and longevity.

Let me explain…

Dire health implications

Feeling lonely has become a worldwide epidemic.

In fact, the U.S. surgeon general now claims loneliness is as detrimental to our health as up to 15 cigarettes per day. (Wow! Doesn’t that put this into perspective?)

And the health implications on older adults is especially dire, as loneliness is linked to a:

  • 50 percent increased risk of dementia
  • 30 percent heightened risk for coronary artery disease or stroke
  • 26 percent elevated risk for all-cause mortality

Not to mention, among diabetics, feelings of loneliness can amplify heart disease risk even more-so than a poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, or depression.

Of course—no surprise here—the U.S. hasn’t tried to nip this problem in the bud. But across the pond, in Europe, they want to know how overarching the issue is.

So, they launched the first-ever European Union (EU)-wide survey on loneliness. And it turns out, around 13 percent of the 20,000 respondents reported feeling lonely most or all of the time over a four-week period that preceded the poll.

In addition, people in Ireland, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, and Greece felt the loneliest…

While those in the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Croatia, and Austria reported the lowest levels of isolation.

Admit and engage

Now, it’s important to note that feeling lonely doesn’t only affect older adults. Indeed, different age groups experience it differently.

For example, loneliness has also been linked to an increased use of social networking sites. And while we don’t have concrete data on whether this can make up for a lack of offline connections, I’ve reported before on the impact of “doom scrolling” on mental health. (So, proceed with caution.)

Of course, we have to first identify and recognize loneliness as a problem—and not an individual weakness—before we can work to reverse its effects. And then…

Locally—and this is something I discuss with my patients all the time—you can find community-based programs that offer a wide range of activities that cater to diverse needs and interests in an environment that fosters social connection.

Think senior citizen centers, LGBTQ centers, or even the local Y.

Or we can get inventive like our European friends, as many cities there are implementing social clubs, group activities, and events designed to bring people together and create a sense of community.

For instance, the city of Pau in France, which is a beautiful town, has an anti-loneliness plan. And in Luleå, a city in northern Sweden, the “Say Hello!” campaign encourages people to greet each other.

The list goes on, but the point is this…

It’s okay if you’re feeling lonely. I promise, you aren’t alone. Not even close!

The first step is admitting it to someone—a loved one, a medical practitioner, anyone. The second step is finding ways to address it—before your health suffers.

You might even consider adopting a pet!

(Subscribers to my monthly Logical Health Alternatives newsletter can read why furry companions can slash feelings of loneliness by clicking here. Not yet a member? Scroll down to learn about becoming one—just look for the red button.)


“Europe Faces Loneliness Epidemic Head-On.” Medscape, 02/19/2024. (