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Studies show relationships are key for overall wellbeing. People thrive in safe social surroundings. Loneliness can take a toll on physical and mental health. It can raise the risk for depression and other mental health issues. It’s also been linked to increased inflammation and higher blood pressure — which an lead to a greater risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Young adults may feel alone because of the time they spend on social media. They may think others have more friends or happier lives because of what they see. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry shows social media can boost their risk for loneliness, depression and suicide.
Loneliness is harmful for the health of older adults, too. More than one-third of adults age 45 and older are lonely. Many live alone. They may not have the routine social interaction that comes with school or a job. Without these touchstones, the risks for sleeplessness, alcoholism and dementia go up significantly.
Despite its negative side, social media can also help people form bonds. Connecting online through platforms such as Facebook and Instagram let people connect online and share photos with friends and family. Users may even build a new group of friends.
For some, other forms of technology can help. Voice-activated devices and smart speakers allow banter between people and machine, which can makes seniors feel more connected. It also offers an easy way to listen to favorite music, learn about daily events and more, says AARP.
Exercising, eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep can help fight off the bad effects of loneliness. They help nurture mental and physical wellbeing – and even longer lives, reports the National Poll on Healthy Aging.
Luckily, there are things nearly everyone can do to help fight that lonely feeling. Try these tips:
Originally published 3/20/2019; Revised 2022
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