Health & Spirit

The danger of loneliness

By Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. on

In the 2000 film "Cast Away," Tom Hanks played Chuck Noland, a man stranded on an island for four years. Noland finds a volleyball from the wreckage of his plane and, out of loneliness, draws a face on it, naming it Wilson. Noland then constantly talks to his new "companion" as if it were another person.

Clearly, one of the most basic human needs is to be connected to others. Friends, family, colleagues -- they aren't just fun to spend time with. Being connected makes you healthier and happier. But according to a paper presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association recently, loneliness is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in America.

Approximately 42.6 million adults over age 45 are suffering from chronic loneliness, according to AARP's 2010 Loneliness Study, and the public health consequences are devastating. The researchers found that social isolation increases the risk of premature death significantly -- even more than obesity does. And you know what a health threat that is!

If you feel lonely or blue, even occasionally, it's time to plug back into the world. If your isolation is because of illness, find local, online and telephone-based support groups for people with your condition. If you're new to an area, volunteer with local organizations in schools and charities or join a club (try a cooking club), and you'll get social very quickly. If you've lost touch with former friends and family, reach out. Make the effort. You'll reduce your risk of early death by 50 percent.


Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit

(c) 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

(c) 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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