Humans are becoming more mobile as people leave family and friends behind in their search for jobs and new lives elsewhere. At the same time, aging populations in many developed countries mean more older citizens are surviving long after their nearest and dearest have passed on. In short, a lonely life is the common experience for many.
Researchers at Ohio State University lookd the health implications of being lonely, and they aren’t good. Led by Lisa Jaremka, the team measured subjects’ feelings about their relationships according to the UCLA loneliness scale, and conducted tests to assess inflammation and immune system response. They found that, despite controlling for sleep quality, age and general health, lonelier people had more dysfunctional immune systems and greater levels of inflammation. Inflammation leads to chronic diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes.
The term ‘community hospital’ may come to mean something entirely different in the future.