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If you eat a healthy diet, exercise and take dietary supplements in an effort to live long and prosper, there’s one more step you need to take.
Researchers at Brigham Young University have identified the last place you want to be if you wish to live to a ripe old age.
That deadly location: home alone.
For better health, you need to get together with friends and family often. Avoid social isolation.
Persistent loneliness, say the scientists, is just as hazardous to your health and longevity as being drastically overweight.
Related: Overcoming loneliness
“The effect of this is comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously,” says researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad. “We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously.”
According to Holt-Lunstad, loneliness may represent a bigger threat to your health if you are under the age of 65 than if you are older. Data show that while seniors are more often lonely and generally have an increased risk of dying in the next few years, being lonely and socially isolated increases the chances of premature death for younger people.
“Not only are we at the highest recorded rate of living alone across the entire century, but we’re at the highest recorded rates ever on the planet,” says researcher Tim Smith. “With loneliness on the rise, we are predicting a possible loneliness epidemic in the future.”
To draw their conclusions, the Brigham Young researchers reviewed studies involving more than 3 million people. They say that loneliness and social isolation are as bad for your health as being an alcoholic or smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
“In essence, the study is saying the more positive psychology we have in our world, the better we’re able to function not just emotionally but physically,” Smith adds.
A good example of this are the people who live on the island of Okinawa in Japan. They have a higher percentage of 100 year olds that anywhere on earth.
Scientists have tried for years to figure out their secret, and I’m sure some of it is their diet. But, did you know that older people on Okinawa are some of the most social in the world? They are constantly visiting each other and doing outside activities together. And there’s a huge party there every year where people come from all over the island and participate in the biggest tug of war held anywhere in the world. They’ve been doing it since the 1600s.
Folks in other “blue zones,” where people live much longer than anyplace else on earth, are also very social. Like on the island of Icaria in Greece, and Abkhazia, high in the mountains of the country of Georgia. Staying active while in the company of friends and family seems to be a key to a long, healthy life.