Feeling lonely won’t kill you. Actually being alone might.
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that after adjusting for demographic factors and underlying health, self-reported feelings of lonesomeness have no significant connection to mortality among the elderly, but actual social isolation increases the likelihood of death by a stunning 26 percent.
Public-health researchers have long known there’s a connection between loneliness, social isolation and mortality. What they didn’t know was whether loneliness was the emotional mechanism through which actually being alone affected health, or whether the feelings of loneliness and the effects of social isolation were somehow independent.