"Friendship is a lot like food. We need it to survive." What food does for your body to keep it healthy, relationships can do for your soul.
There comes a point in life for everyone when you stop chasing after the meaningless wealth or success because you begin to realize what truly enriches your life is forming and maintaining relationships that add meaning to your life.
“Of all the experiences we need to survive and thrive, it is the experience of relating to others that is the most meaningful and important,” wrote Louis Cozolino, professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, according to Greater Good Magazine.
Although relationships are crucial for our existence, we are living through an age where people increasingly isolate themselves, slowly being consumed by loneliness. Not only does this affect your emotional health, but as it turns out, feeling isolated and all alone is also taking a huge toll on your physical health.
Loneliness can shorten your life by increasing your risk of heart diseases and stroke. "Previous research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are linked with coronary heart disease and stroke, but this has not been investigated in patients with different types of cardiovascular disease," said Anne Vinggaard Christensen, a PhD student, The Heart Centre, Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark, who conducted a study on loneliness according to European Society of Cardiology.
"Loneliness is more common today than ever before, and more people live alone," said Christensen. This makes it crucial to understand just how severe the effect of loneliness can be. The study found that loneliness affected people even if their age, weight, risk of other diseases, habits like smoking or drinking were in check.
The study also found that loneliness could double the mortality risk in women. "Loneliness is a strong predictor of premature death, worse mental health, and lower quality of life in patients with cardiovascular disease, and a much stronger predictor than living alone, in both men and women," said Christensen.
According to research covered by NIHR (National Institute for Health Research), loneliness is increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke by 30 percent.
Apart from putting you at a high risk of certain diseases, loneliness can result in premature death as well. A study found on PLOS also found that people with poor connections or who don't have enough social relationships in their lives had 50 percent lesser chance of survival as compared to those who had adequate social relationships.
Julianne Holt-Lunstad, who was part of the study, told Insider that people who had low social connections carried a similar risk as those people who smoked up to 15 cigarettes a day.
When you have strong social ties, it inspires you to take up healthy habits and staying healthy, whereas the severe emotional feelings that come with loneliness could make you take up harmful habits that can further increase your risk of harmful diseases.
The risk on your physical health also becomes more severe when the loneliness starts affecting your sleep, as Hara Estroff Marano pointed out for Psychology Today. When loneliness gets to the point where it starts destroying the quality of your sleep, your body starts losing its ability to restore and repair itself. The physical and psychological wear and tear start increasing when you are constantly waking up at night.
It's important to nurture and maintain the relationships in your life for your own emotional and physical wellbeing, because as Marano wrote, "Friendship is a lot like food. We need it to survive."
Consider friendships and strong relationships as food for the soul and without your soul at ease, your body and mind are completely thrown off balance, thus, increasing your risk of serious health issues.