“When we think about loneliness and social isolation, we often think of them as two faces of the same coin,” says Andrew Steptoe, a psychologist and epidemiologist at University College London, who led the study. But the findings suggest that a lack of social interaction harms health whether or not a person feels lonely, he says. “When you’re socially isolated, you not only lack companionship in many cases, but you may also lack advice and support from people.”
The findings contradict two recent studies that suggest loneliness is associated with declining health and increased mortality in older people. “I think it’s kind of a puzzle that we now need to solve,” says John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois, and a co-author of one of the earlier studies. He says more work is needed to understand cultural factors that may influence results, such as differences in the way people report loneliness.
Cacioppo, eh? I remember him, and it looks like he still bears keeping a suspicious eye on. Look, buddy, I appreciate your concern, but as I demurred perviously, I get plenty of eudaimonic sustenance from online interactions, and frankly, I would gleefully trade a few additional years of statistical existence for the privilege of being left alone to enjoy the life I do have. The tone of this makes me think that sooner or later, somebody’s going to be strongly urging that people like me make living adjustments for our own good as defined by somebody else.