Loneliness Poses the Same Health Risk as Smoking 15 Cigarettes a Day

Loneliness Poses the Same Health Risk as Smoking 15 Cigarettes a Day

Abby Westerman | February 11, 2020

Yes, you read that headline correctly. Loneliness poses the same health risk as smoking 15 cigarettes a day! When I read that statistic, I couldn’t believe it. Loneliness impacts our health and our mortality. An even more disheartening fact is, according to a recent study, loneliness is on the rise, with nearly 2/3 of Americans feeling lonely. The younger you are, the more likely you are to be impacted.

But loneliness is not the same as being alone on a Saturday night. You can experience loneliness even when you are surrounded by people.
I heard a description of loneliness that makes the problem very clear, especially when it comes to thinking about how we can help. It was…

“Loneliness is caused by a mismatch between the quality and quantity of connections we want and those we receive.”


What can we do to help solve this problem?

Be present. Let’s make a promise to each other right now that loneliness won’t be one of the health risks we ever have to worry about.

How do we fulfill that promise?

Commit to being there for those who need us without hesitation. This is particularly important for our loved ones with cancer because their immune system is already beat down by the cancer treatments. Let’s not let loneliness be yet another challenge they must face and overcome, especially knowing that loneliness has an impact on their mortality.


Don’t let them suffer

Would you willingly hand your loved one 15 cigarettes and watch as they smoked every last one? Absolutely not. There is no way we would allow our loved ones to suffer from loneliness if we knew it was equally as harmful to their health as smoking those cigarettes. Yet we somehow let ourselves get in our own way when it comes to being present for those that need us.

So let’s stop with the excuses and make loneliness go up in smoke. Commit to reaching out and checking in. The best connections involve putting the devices down and dedicating our eyes, ears, and heart to the person next to us.

Never underestimate the power of presence…you just might save a life!