Feature

Health scare of the week: Isolation can kill

Social isolation can substantially shorten your life.

Social isolation can substantially shorten your life. A new seven-year study of 6,500 British people over the age of 52 found that those who were the most socially isolated were 26 percent more likely to die during the study period than were those who were the most engaged, regardless of whether they reported feeling lonely. “Social connections can provide emotional support and warmth, which is important, but they also provide things like advice, [such as]making sure people take their medication,” University College London psychologist Andrew Steptoe tells BBC.co.uk. “There are plenty of people who are socially isolated but who are perfectly happy with that. But even then we should be trying to make sure there’s enough contact with them so that if something does go wrong, they’re going to be advised and supported.” Research shows that physical contact, such as handholding, can also improve health by lowering blood pressure, stress-hormone levels, and inflammation.

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