Loneliness Is Bad For Your Health


rain umbrellaOne of the main tributaries feeding into the river of depression is loneliness. It can both trigger depression and can prevent us from recovery. But loneliness doesn’t just affect mood disorders. It has a hold on heart disease, immunity function, nervous system disorders and many other illnesses. It is not an exaggeration to say that many of the health issues in this country stem from loneliness.

In his PsychCentral blog, “Loneliness Is Not a DSM-5 Disorder, But It Still Hurts,” psychiatrist Ron Pies reports on what loneliness does to the body. He writes:

It’s easy to assume that loneliness is simply a matter of mind and mood. Yet recent evidence suggests that loneliness may injure the body in surprising ways. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine studied the risk of coronary heart disease over a 19-year period, in a community sample of men and women. The study found that among women, high degrees of loneliness were associated with increased risk of heart disease, even after controlling for age, race, marital status, depression and several other confounding variables….

And lest there be any doubt that loneliness has far ranging effects on the health of the body, consider the intriguing findings from Dr. S.W. Cole and colleagues, at the UCLA School of Medicine. These researchers looked at levels of gene activity in the white blood cells of individuals with either high or low levels of loneliness. Subjects with high levels of subjective social isolation — basically, loneliness — showed evidence of an over-active inflammatory response. These same lonely subjects showed reduced activity in genes that normally suppress inflammation. Such gene effects could explain reports of higher rates of inflammatory disease in those experiencing loneliness.

What to do about it?

Dr. Pies suggests support groups, especially those for particular medical conditions, like cancer, depression, or addiction. Online support groups can be as effective as the ones where folks drink coffee. A study in 2002, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, followed a group of more than 100 persons with severe depression who joined online depression support groups. More than 95 percent of them said that their participation in the online support groups helped their symptoms. Of course friends can fill the hole.

But sometimes we can’t fix it or make it go away. We just have to feel it.  Accept it. Even as you want to run from it. Because it’s part of being human. I’ve always found great solace in the words of Henri Nouwen: “It is not easy to stay with your loneliness. The temptation is to nurse your pain or to escape into fantasies about people who will take it away. But when you can acknowledge your loneliness in a safe, contained place, you make your pain available for healing.”

Originally published on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.

Share this:

Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

More about me...




February 23, 2024
November 24, 2023
Everything Is Grace: Cultivating Gratitude From a Greater Altitude
June 11, 2023
Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You
May 20, 2023
Please Let Me Cry
February 16, 2023
Love Being Loving

Related Posts

4 Responses
  1. Reblogged this on faith, "sigh", and diy and commented:
    Loneliness is a big part of depression. Some people will feel lonely no matter what, no matter how many people surround them. I agree with Theresa that sometimes we just have to admit that it’s part of who we are and find a way to embrace it and grow from it. God bless you today.

  2. Ammie

    Depression is still a wicked illness because we know so little still. Each person that suffers from depression acts out so differently. I have personal seen they push people away. I am a mother of a depressed son. He rejects help and our love. He brags he has 5000 Facebook friends. It’s nice to have some support but be obsessed is another thing. Reaching out to someone who is depressed & lonely is very difficult but reaching out to someone who has estranged you is a parents nightmare.
    People in the third world are less lonely & much happier with little material goods and wealth. They have great support system that cost them nothing. They do not have to worry about parking meters or spaces. They don’t need to wait for there appointments, rude receptionist and worry about will the insurance pay or will this effect my job…. They have a fantastic web of family system & village councilors. This may not wipe out depression but it sure takes care of loneliness. Strangely people in the third world with depression are not as aggressive as people in America who are taking more medication & finding fire arms. I feel councilor in the West are not looking into family unity for the best support system and cure. In the third world countries FAMILY plays a big roll not theory and popping pills.

  3. I agree with this post. Loneliness can take a toll on your health because it can lead to depression. When a person is depressed he might not eat properly and resort to binge drinking instead which is so bad for the health. Being healthy is not just physical it is also includes the emotional aspect of a human being. People who are happy tend to make healthier choices and take care of their body because they want to live longer. A lonely person has a huge tendency to not care about a lot of things like health because they might feel that no one would else would care anyway. Loneliness an depression can have fatal effects on someone and it should be taken seriously, Although it might be haonly takes one person that genuinely cares to help someone suffering from it.