Loneliness is as harmful as smoking

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Loneliness damages the immune system and is about as harmful as smoking or being overweight.

(27.07.2010) Lonely people often have depression, withdraw into their own world and suffer from a lack of social contacts. This also damages health and promotes the risk of death, according to a US study.

The "Brigham Young University" in Utah refers to a current evaluation of studies that have been published on this topic. According to the researchers, permanent loneliness damages the human immune system and is as dangerous as smoking, unhealthy eating or lack of exercise.

The researchers analyzed the data from 148 studies and evaluated the results from around 300,000 subjects. The results were published in the specialist magazine "PLoS Medicine". All studies were carried out in western industrialized nations. The average age of the participants was 64 years. According to the results of the study, people with far-reaching intact social contacts have a 50 percent chance of survival compared to people who have a low social environment. This even exceeds the risk factors that arise from smoking, obesity and lack of exercise, according to the scientists.

In the course of the study, the subjects were observed on average over 7.5 years. The result was always the same, even if other factors such as age, gender and income were taken into account. Treating doctors should therefore not only listen to the elderly if they have little social contact. Because the greatest effect of all examined factors had the "general social integration", at least it was decisive whether the people lived alone or with someone.

"Physicians, health experts, educators and the media take factors such as smoking, nutrition and sport very seriously: the data presented here offer a valid argument for adding the social factors to this list," the authors of the study argue. Because an intact social environment can also help to cope with stress and depressive moods (depression). This has positive effects on your own health. In addition, some studies had shown that social contacts also strengthen the human immune system. With a strengthened immune system, the body can permanently ward off pathogens better.

According to the researchers, social contacts can make a decisive contribution to strengthening the quality of life and minimizing the risk of death. Health care should not end with just paying attention to the clinical picture of a disease, but including the general well-being of people. Doctors should therefore encourage patients to start social networks.

The study is another argument for a holistic view of human well-being. Accordingly, purely medical considerations are not only helpful to promote human health. It also depends on the personal circumstances in which the person is and what other factors favor a disease. Such factors are often excluded in everyday conventional medicine. It is only a matter of making a diagnosis and administering appropriate treatment primarily with medicinal products. There is no room for the faces of life and suffering. Complementary medicine, on the other hand, focuses on all contexts and focuses on the entirety of people. In naturopathy there is no specialization in specialist areas, because according to the clinical picture e.g. in homeopathy never an organ gets sick, but always the whole person. (sb)

Also read:
Loneliness can raise blood pressure
Depression exacerbate physical pain?

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