Could one of the reasons so many people get sick be because they’re lonely? It turns out that loneliness is a real phenomenon that can affect our health, currently impacting millions of people across the country. For a long time, it left scientists baffled, but now they’re building up the theory and evidence to help them understand why loneliness might be such a big problem.
Human beings are social animals. We didn’t evolve in isolation. Instead, we relied on a community in which every person had a role. The women would typically forage for roots and fruit. The children would help the women once old enough. The men would go out and get meat if it was available or they’d prepare housing and look after livestock. In other words, there was a division of labor in which eat person relied on another to maintain their quality of life. Being alone was extremely uncommon, simply because your survival chances were so small.
But in today’s world, it’s easy to survive by yourself. However, it appears to be related to a bunch of negative health consequences. Why? Scientists think it might have something to do with the body’s primal stress response to isolation. Being by yourself was a sign that you’d been cast out from the tribe. As a result, all your stress responses go into overdrive to protect you from the predators in the environment. This could be why people who are by themselves for long periods of time start to suffer health consequences: their body’s response to stress has real, physiological effects which then cause a range of health problems. Continue reading