Loneliness Can Be As Unhealthy As Smoking


Read time: 3 min

​A recent CBC News article asserts that loneliness is as dangerous to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.  Could loneliness really be a threat to a person's mental health? Does it matter if a person is alone most of the time or some of the time? We'll discuss it and let you decide.

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​Everyone has been lonely at some point in their lives. Children feel lonely. Teenagers feel lonely. Adults feel lonely. And even seniors feel lonely. In fact, as a nurse, I have seen people feel lonely while they lie in a hospital bed after having a procedure and waiting for their recovery. 

​Health Factoid

​Among older folks surveyed, 60% of then believed arts and culture was good for encouraging them to get our of the house, 57% said it helped them to meet other people, while 51% said it made them feel less lonely. 

​Source: Statista.com, https://www.statista.com/statistics/504247/arts-and-culture-older-peoples-wellbeing-factors-in-england/

Loneliness Puts You At Risk

According to the CBC article, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, says social connection should be a public health priority. "It's comparable to the risk of smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day," Holt-Lunstad said in an interview. "It exceeds the risk of alcohol consumption, it exceeds the risk of physical inactivity, obesity, and it exceeds the risk of air pollution."

​Children Show It Instantly

​Logically, I look at loneliness as a method of how well developed our coping skills are within us as it relates to our mental development. 

Think about it this way. An infant may immediately feel lonely and begin to cry out loud when their parent is walking awayfrom them. Ever try to hold an infant from the embrace of their mother and immediately the infant begins to cry in your arms but is at peace in the arms of her mother? Or even try to put down an infant to sleep and just their head touches the pillow, their eyes open up and they begin to cry sensing that they will be alone in their crib.  This is an instant feedback mechanism in children. It's unfiltered.

Jenny BerkeleyRN, Certified Holistic Nutritionist,
Bestselling Author of 5 Books

​A merry heart does a body good but a lonely person is filled with sadness and despair. We need love to help a person in that situation. ~ Jenny Berkeley, RN, Certified Holistic Nutritionist

​As We Age, Loneliness Should Lose Its Power

​As we age and become adults, we should have develop sufficient coping mechanism that enable us to overcome feelings of loneliness. For me, the knowledge of my all powerful God who is with me at all times, gives me a sense of never being alone. This is in addition to having my friends and family around me to brighten my days.

Senior citizens can sometimes be at a tremendous disadvantage. As they live longer, they may outlive their friends and close family members. Suddenly the people they grew up with and knew for 10, 20, 50 or more years are gone. This creates a sense of being alone.

When a husband and wife have been married for 50 years and in their golden years one partner dies, don't we see that soon after the other one follows? This demise may have been helped along by the loneliness of the loss of a loved one. 

​Times In Our Lives We Are Most At Risk

​The two times in our lives when we become most at risk of suffering ill effects should be when we are very young and do not have well developed coping mechanism. The other time is when we are very old and our coping mechanism are weak due to the passage of time and the process of growing older. All the time in between, we should be developing social structures as well as mental structures to help us live happy and wholesome lives.  If you're experiencing loneliness in your adult life, then it could be a sign that the social structures in your life are malformed or under-developed. Also, circumstances could trigger an intense feeling of loneliness. For example, a past writer for the magazine, in talking about her experience lying in the hospital at night after her surgery for Cancer said the tears began to flow down her pillow. She was sad for her loss but it was the loneliness and darkness of the hospital room, that allowed her emotions to erupt.

​What Do You Think

​I think that the loving support of family and friends can help a person dealing with loneliness. Also, helping a person develop their spiritual side and having well developed coping mechanism are key. I believe loneliness is a disease but alcoholism is a much more dangerous affliction in terms of the widespread use and abuse of it.

Do you think that loneliness could be as dangerous as smoking? Do you think it is more of a symptom of something larger at work in the life of a person that needs to be addressed. At your age, how you do handle those pangs of loneliness? Leave a comment below. 

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Jenny Berkeley, RN, Health Educator (91 Posts)

Jenny Berkeley is a nurse of over 25 years, a certified holistic nutritionist, a health educator, a bestselling author of 5 books in the Holistic Health Nurse Series, and a raw food chef. Her career has seen her work both locally in Canada and Internationally. Her knowledge of allopathic medicine and alternative enables her to understand holistically how the body works and heals. She’s been on TV, Radio, and even met the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago. She educates her clients in the knowledge of their own body and their role in keeping themselves well. Her belief, “Good health is your birthright. Keeping it is your choice.”