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Loneliness: A deadly disease
Loneliness has been described as a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to social isolation. It is long and unbearable pain and more painful than being hurt. Loneliness doubles the risk of dying from heart disease.

Significantly, it is generally perceived that loneliness occurs when being alone. However, loneliness has nothing much to do with being alone as some people feel lonely even being together or moving in a crowded place. Loneliness is known to be an emotional state, which could affect people individually, due to some unfavourable circumstances or being a non-social personality. However, it is also a fact that getting socially unconnected also leads to loneliness.

Jackie Gollan, a clinical psychologist at Northwestern University asserted that loneliness can be challenging to treat, and even if depression is treated, loneliness may still be there.

John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, had viewed loneliness as a social phenomenon that exists within a society and can spread through it, even from person to person, like a disease. All individuals feel lonely once in a while and for some people it becomes a persistent condition, mostly associated with more serious psychological ills like depression, sleep disorders, high blood pressure and even an increased risk of neurological disorder especially in older age.

Loneliness is a serious sickness. It could lead to health problems, particularly related to heart disease. Loneliness is also considered to be the reason for some other major diseases such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Lonely persons tend to smoke and drink more and also indulge in less physical exercise therefore they always remain prone to serious diseases. Alarming statistics have also indicated that loneliness increases the risk of dementia by over sixty per cent, of heart disease by twenty-nine per cent and of stroke by thirty per cent, and it is dangerous than smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.

Psychologists believe that loneliness hurts the heart most. Since a lonely person's hormones are basically released in response to stress this leads to wear and tear of the cardiovascular system, adversely affecting the heart. Moreover, most of the lonely people perceive social interactions as more negative and threatening than non-lonely people do which also puts uncalled for pressure on their hearts.

Sometimes, lonely person becomes more hostile, which in turn makes the heart muscles weak, leading to heart disease. Anne Vinggaard Christensen, a PhD student at the Heart Centre at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, whose study on loneliness was presented at Euro Heart Care 2018 at Dublin in Ireland, described loneliness as a strong predictor of premature death, worse mental health with cardiovascular disease. He also found that those who felt lonely or isolated were twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack.

Loneliness leaves negative effects on physical and mental health. In modern days some of major reasons for loneliness are attributed to certain factors, such as getting rejected or abused; individual's inability to fit in society and his surroundings; social atmosphere; being excessively emotional and sensitive and & heart break due to death of close ones or spouse, divorce; addiction to social media leading to being more involved in virtual communities and online friendships, becoming less interested in maintaining real life social ties with family members and friends, and last but not least, aging.

Due to being neglected by the younger family members, most of the elders in old age feel isolated, unwanted and adversely suffer from mental sickness leading to loneliness. They feel rejected and marginalized both in families and their surroundings including in their neighbourhoods. For lonely elders feeling of alienation can be extremely detrimental to their health. In addition, loneliness may also prove to be fatal, causing sleeping disorders and premature death. Studies show that people, particularly elders, who live unaccompanied are more prone to an early death due to stroke, heart attacks or other mental and physical complications.

In India, depression mainly due to loneliness is considered to be "under –recognized" as according to Dr Rajesh Sagar, professor of psychiatry at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, and secretary, Central Mental Health Authority(CMHA), only 10 per cent sufferers opt for medical treatment while 90 per cent suffer without ever getting the help they need. It is generally believed that depression due to loneliness comes in their life without warning and before a sufferer realises related problems, he or she is already in its grip.

According to Dr Ashit Sheth, consultant psychiatrist at Bombay Hospital Medical Research Centre, Mumbai, no one is immune to depression and inter alia "money, youth, success, talent, nothing safeguards against depression's grip". In 2013, four IIT research students found that the phrase "I am lonely" was searched 46,000 times a day on an average in India. Subsequently, these IIT research students successfully launched India's first emotional networking site, in the year 2013 itself.

There are many ways to avoid loneliness. Predominantly one should take care of health and take corrective measures for negative health indicators such as poor sleep, feeling lethargic and depressed as these are primary indicators of loneliness. One can overcome such unhealthy symptoms by regular physical activity, avoiding junk food and increase intake of the more fruits and vegetables into diet. This gives more energy, reduces stress, which in turn positively impacts a person's outlook and feeling of happiness.

Some other salient measures to avoid loneliness are to be social; spend some time in a hobby like reading, painting or gardening; start some project such as learning a new language or instrument; spend more time outdoors; visit public places like gardens or coffee shops; go for outing(s) regularly; get a pet; understand difference between loneliness and isolation; avoid interacting with negative personalities; and become less dependent on your family and friends.

We should, however, always beware of negative implications of loneliness because this is a deadly disease which initially hijacks the brain and then eats away the personality, finally blowing away life.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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