Scientist have discovered social isolation can greatly decrease life expectancy.
A new study has revealed the potentially deadly impact feeling alone can have on your health.
Social isolation in later life can prove fatal by exacerbating health problems.
And not having a solid network of family and friends can ‘vastly elevate’ someone’s risk of life-threatening conditions, like heart disease, stroke and even cancer.
The research also revealed that loneliness - not clinical risk factors, such as diabetes - is more likely to cause hypertension in later life.
In particular, a good group of friends and family can reduce your risk of hypertension by 54 per cent.
The team found that during adolescence, BMI and waist size were higher among the participants who perceived themselves to be lonelier.
On the other hand, people with a social network are less likely to develop these health conditions and have a longer life expectancy.
The research found loneliness had the greatest impact in adolescence and old age. For adolescents, loneliness had the same health implications as inactivity.
In middle age, scientists discovered social isolation was less important.
Dr Kathleen Mullan Harris, of UNC and the Carolina Population Center, said: “‘The relationship between health and the degree to which people are integrated in large social networks is strongest at the beginning and at the end of life, and not so important in middle adulthood, when the quality, not the quantity, of social relationships matters.”
The team advise that health professionals should make a concerted effort to help the public understand the extent to which strong social bonds protect our health throughout the course of our lives.