Stress and Loneliness

An individual who is exposed to high levels of stress and without close friends or family ties faces a higher risk of reduced life expectancy.

This statement was confirmed by a study where 50-year old men were chosen (through random sampling) as participants and were asked to undergo psychological evaluation and physical examination at the start of the study. After seven years, researchers tracked down official records to be able to determine which of the participants had died.

The findings showed that the men who were both isolated and stressed at the same time faced a higher risk of dying sooner than those who also experienced a similar stressful situation but were emotionally supported by the people around them. Examples of situations that bring about high levels of stress which also increase a person’s mortality rate would include having problems with a family member, feelings of insecurity, being forced to move, being subjected to a legal action and financial woes.

Relationships Protect People from Stress

The study showed that the men who received adequate support from their friends and loved ones felt more protected from any ill effects of stress. According to researchers, relationships that are emotionally reassuring can significantly buffer the effects of stress while increasing one’s resistance to different kinds of diseases.

These relationships provide people with help and support on how to cope with their emotional reactions to upsetting life events which may otherwise trigger biological mechanisms associated with increased risk of disease and ill-health.

Feeling alone reduces coping ability by only offering a polarized and singular viewpoint of problems, which results in limited solutions and feelings of powerlessness.

Being associated with people who care about you will help you see certain situations from a different perspective and give you ideas on how you can deal with these events.

As a result, stressful situations will turn out to be less threatening. It is also a recognized truth that the thought of having someone there who truly cares for you, despite what you are going through, is enough to make you realize that things are not so bad after all.

The Significant Link between Stress and Mortality

Other research has been conducted which further links ill health to stressful life events and shows that having a solid social network helps protect an individual’s health. This is partly due to the fact that individuals who have significant social ties generally have healthier habits. By comparison, loners generally take less good care of themselves, especially in areas of health and hygiene.

Experts say that the physiological mechanisms involved in the process are the immune and neuroendocrine systems of the body, which are subtly affected by supportive social relationships.

So it has been proven that there is a significant link between mortality and social isolation. Yet another study showed that after a period of nine years, the people who had the fewest social ties had higher mortality rates compared to participants who had strong social support.

What does that tell you? If you want to live longer and be able to fight the ill effects of stress, don’t become isolated from friends and loved ones. Stress is a killer, but so is dealing with it if you are alone.

© Triangle Mental Health Foundation 2019