Loneliness Kills. Literally!

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The Campaign to End Loneliness has a hefty goal. We’re not talking about a simple human emotion here. Research on loneliness consistently shows concerning data that requires attention. According to Medical News Today, “loneliness [is] a bigger killer than obesity,” with other research likening loneliness to smoking in terms of its affects on mortality rates.

A new report by health insurance company Cigna, details the results of surveying 20,000 Americans to understand the loneliness phenomenon. In it’s opening letter, the Index Report specifies that, “Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.”

While the Campaign to End Loneliness focuses on the elderly, (and for good reason,) Cigna’s study reveals that

  • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) and Millennials (adults ages 23-37) are lonelier and claim to be in worse health than older generations.
  • Students have higher loneliness scores than retirees.

The issue has been highlighted in Canada as well, with comparisons being drawn to the UK and their recent investments into addressing the loneliness challenges across the pond.

Why does this matter to a business audience?

At Smart Self we deeply believe that performance and productivity are contingent on the well being of the whole individual. If caring about our fellow humans wasn’t enough, let’s note how this affects the health of our economy.

Approximately 1 in 5 Canadians personally experience a mental health problem or illness (1 in 6 adults in the U.S.), and research shows that mental health issues are one of the most rapidly increasing causes of long-term sick leave. A Conference Board of Canada report, “[d]epression and anxiety cost the Canadian economy at least $32.3 billion a year and $17.3 billion a year, respectively, in foregone GDP due to lost productivity.”

As well, Cigna’s report indicates that “[w]hen examining the different issues affecting people with mental health conditions, there is a consistent part of the pathology: they also suffer from loneliness.”

Not only does loneliness kill, not only do mental health issues have a dramatic affect on business, but also, we know that loneliness and mental health issues go hand in hand. So these issues must be on the minds of leaders in businesses everywhere.

It’s hard to talk about these issues in a professional environment, but we must find a way. Our survival and success depends on our ability to address these issues. As far as your next strategic plan is concerned, perhaps employee well being should be just as (or perhaps more) important as revenue targets.