I read an interesting and slightly depressing report today in the Boston Globe. It said that the number one cause of early death among middle-aged men was not cancer, nor heart disease…but loneliness. WOW. This correlates with another survey where thousands of men were interviewed over a period of 75 years and they came up with one conclusion.
It was not the amount of money, houses or cars that made them successful. It was not the professional achievements people made. No, the ultimate factor in determining success and happiness in life was the quality of their relationships. The huge study looked at Harvard graduates and poor men from Boston, and they came up with the same factors in determining longevity, and happiness in men.
“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period,” Waldinger says in a 2015 Tedx talk.”
Books have been written about this epidemic, like this one, The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first Century by Dr Richard S. Schwartz, a Cambridge psychologist.
Here are some snips from the Globe story.
“Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general of the United States, has said many times in recent years that the most prevalent health issue in the country is not cancer or heart disease or obesity. It is isolation. When people with children become overscheduled, they don’t shortchange their children, they shortchange their friendships.” And the public health dangers of that are incredibly clear,” Dr. Schwartz said.
“In 2015, a huge study out of Brigham Young University, using data from 3.5 million people collected over 35 years, found that those who fall into the categories of loneliness, isolation, or even simply living on their own see their risk of premature death rise 26 to 32 percent.
Now consider that in the United States, nearly a third of people older than 65 live alone; by age 85, that has jumped to about half. Add all of this up, and you can see why the surgeon general is declaring loneliness to be a public health epidemic.”
This is why I go out of my way to be a good friend. This is why I call my friends so often and organize lunch dates. This is why I am always thinking about breakfast meetings, having drinks, going out with my friends, and generally, am the instigator. I am proud to be the instigator. I like being the one who gets people together.
If for nothing more than their health!