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It’s proven: loneliness is bad for your health. And according to a new Chinese study, social isolation would even reduce life expectancy.

In 2022, almost 11% of young people and adults aged over 15 were in “situation of relational isolation“, according to a study by the Fondation de France published in early 2023. In short: thousands of French people never (or almost never) meet people outside their homes.

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A loneliness that mainly concerns people with low incomes, as well as unemployed people. Thus, 21% of the unemployed suffered from loneliness in 2022, an increase of + 3% compared to 2020.

Carried out by researchers from Harbin Medical University (in China), a new study confirms that loneliness is bad for your health, and could even shorten life expectancy. To reach this chilling conclusion, the Chinese researchers reviewed 90 previous studies, conducted with more than 2.2 million people worldwide.

Loneliness promotes bad habits

Result: people who suffer from social isolation and who report a persistent feeling of loneliness would have an increased risk of dying early – in particular from cancer or cardiovascular disease.

How to explain it? For the researchers, it is a matter of lifestyle habits: “single people are less likely to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Conversely, they are more likely to smoke and drink alcohol.“In addition, scientists have observed that loneliness also impairs the effectiveness of the immune system, and promotes chronic inflammation.

To combat social isolation, American health authorities have recently made recommendations: sign up for group activities (a choir, a pottery or painting class, a walking group…), don’t stay alone when you feel depressed (call a relative, a friend, a neighbour… or simply chat with a merchant), and limit practices that promote feelings of loneliness (social networks!).


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