People suffering from chronic loneliness are more likely to develop physical health problems compared to those regularly surrounded by others, research has revealed.

Scientists from Florida State University have found that people who often feel lonely are approximately 40% more likely to develop dementia compared to those who rarely feel alone.

They discovered that people who felt lonely had higher cortisol levels, which can damage part of the brain responsible for an individual’s memory.

The authors said: “Addressing this psychosocial risk factor will likely have a broad range of positive outcomes, including lowering risk and prevalence of dementia.”

High cortisol levels triggered from chronic loneliness also doubles an individual’s risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

According to a study published in the European Association for the Study of Diabetes’ journal Diabetologia, high cortisol levels can cause insulin resistance.

Researchers from the University of York have also reported that people who are socially isolated are 29% more likely to develop coronary heart disease and 32% more at risk of having a stroke.

They stated: “The main finding of our review supports public health concerns over the implications of social relationships for health and well-being.

“Our work suggests that addressing loneliness and social isolation may have an important role in the prevention of two of the leading causes of morbidity in high-income countries.”

Being lonely can also trigger obesity, according to a study conducted by the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany.

Individuals with chronic loneliness are more likely to have a sedentary lifestyle and follow an unhealthy diet compared to those who do not feel socially isolated, the study has suggested.

A team of scientists from Stanford University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong have found that being social isolated also accelerates the ageing process five months faster than smoking.

Researcher Laurie Theeke said: “I have been studying this since 2002, and there are many national datasets that show loneliness leads to a shorter lifespan, higher mortality and more co-morbidities – so this doesn’t surprise me at all.”

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