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Studies link social isolation, health problems

Researchers are finding that social isolation is a growing epidemic — one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences (Source: “How Social Isolation Is Killing Us,” New York Times, Dec. 22, 2016).

Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent. And a wave of new research suggests social separation is bad for us. Individuals with less social connection have disrupted sleep patterns, altered immune systems, more inflammation and higher levels of stress hormones. One recent study found that isolation increases the risk of heart disease by 29 percent and stroke by 32 percent.

Another analysis that pooled data from 70 studies and 3.4 million people found that socially isolated individuals had a 30 percent higher risk of dying in the next seven years, and that this effect was largest in middle age.