Dr. Keith Ablow: Loneliness is now more deadly than obesity. And we still don’t we have a plan to reduce it

Speaking recently at the 125th annual convention of the American Psychological Association, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, wisely focused on the toll that loneliness is taking on Americans. 

Dr. Holt-Lunstad presented findings culled from two massive 2010 analyses of data from hundreds of studies involving millions of individuals. Among the data: Social isolation, loneliness or living alone was each a significant factor contributing to premature death.  And each one of these factors was a more significant risk factor for dying than obesity.

Think about that: Loneliness now eclipses obesity as a cause of premature death in America. The AARP estimates that 42.6 million Americans over the age of 45 are suffering from loneliness, with nearly one quarter of the population living alone, marriage rates declining and the number of children per family dropping. 

And we don’t have any credible plan to reduce loneliness. In fact, all indications are that it will continue to rise.

We’re increasingly a people who pose. And posing leaves the poser and his or her audience feeling empty–and alone.

No one knows precisely why loneliness is surging, threatening the lives of many millions of people, but it does seem that the burgeoning use of technology may have something to do with it.  Personally, I would contend that technology may be the chief factor fueling it.

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