A new paper published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences explores the wide-ranging, negative consequences that social isolation has on our psychological well-being and physical health, including decreased life span. The paper was co-authored by Associate Professor Danilo Bzdok (McGill University and Mila Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute) and Emeritus Professor Robin Dunbar (Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford).
Through examining a broad range of studies, a full picture emerged of the severe impact that loneliness can have, namely that:
- having strong interpersonal relationships is critical for survival across the entire lifespan;
- social isolation is a significant predictor of the risk of death;
- insufficient social stimulation affects reasoning and memory performances, hormone homeostasis, brain grey/white-matter, connectivity and function, as well as resilience to physical and mental disease;
- feelings of loneliness can spread through a social network, causing negatively skewed social perception, escalating morbidity and mortality, and, in older people, precipitating the onset of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.