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Health Spotlight: Living alone linked to negative health conditions

Health Spotlight: Living alone linked to negative health conditions

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The number of Americans living alone has more than doubled since 1960. And now research shows living by yourself may negatively affect your health.

“Being separated from other people is an unnatural state for human beings,” said Dr. Richard Schwartz, a psychiatrist.

Data from the US Census Bureau shows about 30% of households in the U.S. are occupied by just one person.

“More and more Americans are more and more socially isolated and more likely to describe feelings of loneliness,” explained Schwartz.

A new study published in the Journal Cancer found that adults who live alone have a 32% higher risk of dying from cancer. Social isolation and loneliness have also been linked to other health conditions, like heart disease and dementia. And some research has suggested living alone increases the risk of death from any cause.

“The effect of social isolation and loneliness on our health is as powerful as things like smoking, high blood pressure, obesity,” said Schwartz.

But if you do live alone, Dr. Schwartz says you don’t have to be lonely. Make it a point to connect with others as much as possible. One study found regular 10-minute phone calls can help ease loneliness.

“We are healthier, we are happier, we are less stressed when we maintain our connections to other people,” explained Schwartz.

You may also want to try volunteering, joining a support group, or taking up a new hobby. Pets can also keep you company. Studies show owning one can improve both physical and mental wellness. Also, try keeping a gratitude journal. One study found daily gratitude writing lessened loneliness and improved health among older adults.

Participants in the cancer study who lived alone were also more likely to have a fair or poor health status, obesity, and serious psychological distress. They were also more apt to smoke and drink.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.