Hey, Guess What? Your Loneliness Is Literally Killing You
Loneliness sucks. It’s no fun not having friends.
It’s a bummer to spend Friday nights commenting on message boards instead of out on the town.
Nobody wants to see a movie alone. The shy guy – even the intro-est of the introverts – would like to be included in things from time to time and have friends to confide in.
But, getting there takes time, courage and suffering through brutal rejection at times. For the shy guy, loneliness is a tradeoff to avoid more painful rejection, right?
The rationale is that being lonely sucks, but getting shut down by a girl at the bar hurts more. Loneliness, while sometimes a downer, is safe.
Or is it?
Turns out that no, your loneliness is actually not safe whatsoever. In fact, it’s killing you in a very real way.
While you may be protecting yourself from the bright, stabbing pain of rejection, your isolation is as bad as having obesity or being a heavy smoker or being a drunk. I get that you might be skeptical, so let’s lay some studies on you:
BYU did a study on this very thing and determined that loneliness was as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
They also discovered that lonely middle-aged people were 24 percent more likely to have heart disease than their non-lonely counterparts.
A study published by JAMA Internal Medicine determined that loneliness can increase your likelihood of an early death by 45 percent and dementia by 64 percent.
Also, getting beyond the straight numbers, here are a few facts that I’d like to introduce to your eyeballs:
Lonely people are more likely to experience higher levels of stress.
You might not even consciously realize it, but you’re worried about your loneliness. Human beings, even the Boo Radleys of the world, yearn for some kind of human interaction. If you’re not getting it, your body will gradually slip deeper into a state of stress.
Lonely people are more likely to have a compromised immune system.
According to an Ohio State University study, you’re more likely to produce inflammatory-related proteins under duress than non-lonely folks. I’ll spare you the scientific details, but it means that you’re getting sick more often.
Lonely people are less likely to take care of themselves.
Without other people around that you care about, the obvious thing is that you don’t take of your appearance as much; however, research has shown that you’re also less likely to take care of yourself in other ways, nutrition being one of the most damning things lonely people start to overlook.
Lonely people are more likely to deal with bouts of depression.
This one probably goes without saying, but if you’re spending a lot of time alone, not getting out, not having a ton of human interaction, you are way more susceptible to depression.
So, let’s see: INCREASED STRESS + LOWERED IMMUNE SYSTEM + POOR NUTRITION + WONKY BRAIN CHEMISTRY …
Math is not my strong suit, but I’m pretty sure if we add all of that up, the answer is: YOU’RE IN TROUBLE. If that’s not a recipe for health issues, I don’t know what is.
Now why are we talking about this aside from just to scare you? I think it’s important to look at the very real danger to being lonely. I think being shy and reclusive can feel like a safety net.
Sure, you intellectually understand that you’re missing out on a little fun, and you might not date very much (or ever), but that info by itself might not be enough for you to take any steps to changing your life.
You’re still more afraid of embarrassment and rejection than you are of having a lonely life.
So, let’s try and flip the script. What if you were more afraid of living an unhealthy, lonely life that would put you in an early grave than putting yourself out there to meet women and make friends?
What if you understood that staying in or not dating online or not approaching that girl was far, far more dangerous than the two minutes of stinging rejection that you might feel?
Would you consider changing things up a bit, then? Would you maybe think about signing up for an intramural sport or approaching that girl or going to a party even if you don’t know very many people there?
I hope so. It could be the best health decision you’ve ever made.