New research has indicated just how seriously we should take the issue of loneliness, especially for older generations. In a 12 year study of nearly half a million UK residents, the research showed links between lack of social interactions and higher levels of death.
The research comes from the medical journal BMC Medicine. It used the UK BioBank database for its research and monitored health issues and levels of social interactions. The mean age of those surveyed was 56 years old. The research looked at how often people were visited by friends and family and how often they took part in group social activities.
It found that all loneliness factors it analysed increased the risk of people dying than those who had daily visits and interactions. People who did not have a visit from friends and family were 39 per cent more likely compared to people with daily visits. The good news is – that rate came down massively even if social interactions only increased by a small margin. Monthly visits and social interactions were enough to reduce the significance of the problem.
The report found that:
“those reporting any measure of reduced social connection were more likely to be from a minority ethnic background, be more deprived, engage in more unhealthy behaviours (smoking, high alcohol intake, and low physical activity levels), have a higher BMI, and have more long-term conditions.”
It seems a bit dramatic to say solving the problem of loneliness is a matter of life and death – but that does actually seem to be the reality. It’s a societal failure that so many people feel and experience loneliness. But it really often is the small things in life that make the difference. So while social discovery apps superficially are not always doing out of the ordinary things – giving someone a safe place to vent, a place to organises a coffee with a new friend, or find a new social group who share your interest – they actually go a long way to making a big difference in people’s lives.