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You don’t need anyone to tell you that loneliness sucks. But did you know that it’s an all-but-out-of-control epidemic in the modern world, and that lives are shortened because of it? That’s the lamentable truth. But happily, as Dr. Jill Carnahan relates, the remedy is accessible to nearly everyone.
We hear a lot about some causes of death: cigarettes, guns, heart disease, fentanyl. But in many parts of the world there’s a less visible killer we ignore to our peril. Loneliness is correlated with a 26% increase in the likelihood of premature death in the United States, where one person in twelve is severely affected.
And “affected” means much more than a passing, or even sustained, negative feelings. Evidence of the medical consequences of severe loneliness has accrued study by study, year by year. Immune system dysfunction, chronic inflammation, pain, fatigue, high blood pressure: all these conditions and more have been linked to a life of loneliness.
Dr. Jill Carnahan, a doctor specializing in functional medicine and health education, is quite direct about the dangers of loneliness in this essay on her website. But she lavishes more attention on a straightforward remedy, and one that’s also supported by evidence: namely, love. Or to expand a bit, the immense healing power of an increased commitment to building and sustaining loving relationships, in all aspects and stages of our lives.
Just as loneliness has a clear pathology—often increasing with age, economic precarity, excessive screen time, etc.—building loving relationships has a rather clear methodology as well. Dr. Carnahan shares many reflections on breaking out of the loneliness trap. This quick, uplifting essay is also a serious form of health guidance on a too-often-overlooked topic. Check it out: