Could a Bad Economy Cause Death by Loneliness?

Health experts are saying that loneliness is a health hazard. A bad economy can encourage loneliness.


I have written before about how our current poor economy (whether officially in recession or not) can have long term consequences that cause further economic damage and also reduce quality of life for many people.

A painful economy causes people to delay household formation. No couple wants to get busy having kids when they are living in one set of parents’ basement.

I pointed out originally that this will almost certainly cause severe demographic pressure on the economy in the next couple of decades. When people decide not to have children due to economic pressure, that economic pressure gets transmitted into the next generation.

But there is more at stake. Not only is the absence of children a factor, but the absence of marriage might also hurt the economy by causing earlier decrepitude. More people are likely to become dependents on the public healthcare system because they are alone.

Yes, loneliness is a health hazard.

According to CBS News: “​Too much ‘alone time’ may shorten your life.”

More Americans than ever before are living alone. Some people are better at this than others; they thrive on “alone time,” and seem perfectly happy flying solo at the movies, restaurants and on vacation when the rest of the world couldn’t imagine doing these things without a partner, spouse or friends.

But new research finds that even if you relish solitary living, too much “me time” could cut your life short. A study conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University finds both loneliness and social isolation could shorten a person’s life span, comparable to the effects of obesity. Other research has compared the health impact of loneliness to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and drinking alcohol excessively.

“The present obesity epidemic had been predicted,” write the authors in their study. “Obesity now receives constant coverage in the media and in public health policy and initiatives. The current status of research on the risks of loneliness and social isolation is similar to that of research on obesity 3 decades ago – although further research on causal pathways is needed, researchers now know both the level of risk and the social trends suggestive of even greater risk in the future.”

In older people, loneliness and social isolation were a clearer indicator of early mortality. But interestingly, the researchers found the association between loneliness and increased risk for early death is actually greater for younger populations.

With household formation delayed, we are only going to see more people caught in a lonely life because they end up delaying forever. There is no one around to love them in their old age. If this study is accurate, this loneliness may increase healthcare costs and have other consequences.