Thursday, January 24, 2019

Gina Barreca: Loneliness is as bad for you as smoking

Is it possible that loneliness is worse for you — and a harder habit to break — than smoking?

Maybe. The only way health and science experts could make the health crisis surrounding chronic loneliness more urgent would be to announce that loneliness makes Americans look fat, especially from behind.

The U.S. Surgeon General issued a report in 1964 making it clear to Americans that “cigarette smoking contributes substantially to mortality from certain specific diseases and to the overall death rate.” In response, many smokers starting putting down their butts.

You know what’s been proven to contribute substantially to mortality from specific diseases and to the overall death rate in 2019? Loneliness. The figure most often reported is that chronic loneliness has the same effect as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. So why, in response, aren’t more of us getting off our butts and running out to hug our neighbors?

Some of you will explain, quietly and calmly, that you’re introverts who value time alone and that this doesn’t apply to you. You’re entirely correct. Unlike chronic loneliness, a consciously chosen solitary life can be both satisfying and healthy.

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