You say you want to be alone? Think again. Researchers have found that older people with fewer human contacts are more likely to die—even if they’re happy in their solitude—than are people with richer social lives. The study adds to the debate over whether loneliness, social isolation, or some combination of the two leads to higher mortality.
Other studies, including an analysis of older Americans led by John Cacioppo, a psychology professor at the University of Chicago in Illinois, have shown a link between loneliness and a higher death rate. Cacioppo suspects that the discrepancy between his study and the new research could lie with cultural differences between Steptoe’s British subjects and Americans. “The culture of the stiff upper lip may mean people are answering somewhat differently … than they do in America,” he says, adding that Britons and Americans may define friends differently, too.
Health psychologist Bert Uchino of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City lauds the new study for its large sample size and its direct comparison of social isolation and loneliness, but he says that researchers are still far from understanding how those two factors affect one another and other health-related behaviors. “They’ve done a really good study here,” Uchino says. “I just don’t think it’s going to be the final word on the issue.”
Read the whole story: Wired
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