Experts have warned that being single and lonely is deadlier than obesity and should therefore be considered a public health risk.
According to a review of studies on loneliness, people who have bad social connections have a 50% increased risk of early death compared to those with good social connections.
This was 20% higher than the risk of death associated with obesity which was rated at just 30 percent.
218 studies on the health effects of loneliness and social isolation were reviewed by researchers in the US.
According to the lead author and professor of psychology at Brigham Young University Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, being socially connected to other people is considered an essential human need for both well-being and survival.
“Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment.
“Yet an increasing portion of the US population now experiences isolation regularly.”
One of the ways social connections are established is through romantic relationships.
Feeling lonely is thought to make people feel worse mentally and physically — and those who are lonely tend to suffer worse symptoms when they are unwell than those who aren’t.
A recent survey by Granset, the over-50s social networking site, found that almost three-quarters of older people in the UK are lonely and most have never spoken to someone about how they feel.
It also discovered that about 70 percent said their close friends and family would be surprised if they said they were lonely.