How the epidemic of loneliness is affecting our health

With thanks to Dr. Carolyn Boulos, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Sunnybrook and assistant professor at University of Toronto.

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How the epidemic of loneliness if affecting our health

Rated of loneliness have doubled in the past three decades

Loneliness now affects 1 in 4 people

Loneliness is associated with…

Chronic disorders like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s

Mental illness, which was identified as a risk factor of loneliness as early as the 1950s

Depression and social withdrawal from intimacy in relationships with family and friends

Inflammation and impaired immune system from the chronic release of cortisol, a stress hormone

Premature death in the elderly from a lack of social interaction

Changes in gene expression from living in a stressful, lonely environment

Tips to fight loneliness

The quality of relationships, not the number, is key to being connected and understood

1. Share a meal or a walk – without screens. Being connected and social has health benefits as important as exercise. It will do your heart wonders, and result in more restful sleep.

2. Increase physical touch. It’s important for our nervous system, promoting feelings of safety and connection.

3. Connect with others who have similar interests. Groups with similar interests can help support healthier lifestyles and decrease loneliness.

4. Don’t underestimate the power of community. Connection, intimacy and feeling understood is the best medicine.


More on this topic

A psychiatrist’s tips for avoiding & combating loneliness

It is important to know that you are not alone. If you or someone you know is suffering, help is available. Find resources and information at

About the author

Sybil Millar

Sybil Millar is the Communications Advisor for Infection Prevention and Control, Infectious Diseases, the Ross Tilley Burn Centre and the Critical Care program at Sunnybrook.

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