Loneliness is nothing new, but only recently has its toll on employee wellness been revealed. The toxic effect of loneliness punishes both sexes equally, and is a more powerful predictor of vascular diseases than blood pressure or body weight.
How does loneliness take its toll?
• Research shows loneliness ups the average risk for coronary heart disease and stroke – the developed world’s most prolific killers – by 50%, putting its health effects on par with anxiety, occupational stress, and smoking.
• Studies suggest lonely and isolated individuals are 29% more likely to develop coronary heart disease and 32% more likely to suffer a stroke.
• Loneliness is also linked to higher rates of cognitive decline and poor immune system function.
Leading loneliness causes:
Mobility issues, physical and mental illness, depression, a move, the death of a loved one – these and more may contribute to loneliness. Even those surrounded by people can feel alone.
The chicken or the egg?
The lonely engage in fewer healthy behaviors (exercise, medical visits), and are much more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors (under/overeating, smoking, drinking), making it difficult to determine if loneliness is the contributor or result of poor health.
Social isolation and loneliness is only expected to increase, despite today’s technology. How can it be prevented to reduce health risks? Protecting familial relationships with healthy work/life boundaries is essential. For others, referral to a mental health program can encourage the lonely to reconnect with friends, join a club, sign up for classes, volunteer, and help find other effective solutions.
Ensure your employee wellness efforts are focused where it counts. Don’t go it alone. Enlist the support of Minnesota Comp Advisor.