Loneliness raises risk for poor health outcomes

Clinical psychologist Patrick Raue says loneliness is a tricky condition that can delude even the person experiencing it.

“It's tough because loneliness isn't just about being objectively isolated or having little social contact. It's more of a subjective feeling of distress that you don't have people to rely on,” said Raue, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “It's feeling isolated or feeling like you have no companionship or feeling that you have no one to be there for you.” 

Loneliness also is associated with a host of unfavorable health outcomes. 

“It increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes. It's even been shown to be a really powerful risk factor for early mortality,” Raue said. “Some data suggest it's equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, which is really striking.” 

In a blog post, Raue offers perspective on a new advisory from the Surgeon General calling loneliness an epidemic in the United States. 

Download broadcast-ready soundbites on loneliness as a health issue. 


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UW Medicine