Social isolation increases the risk of premature death from every cause for every race, a new study finds.
For white people (unlike other groups), solitude was found to significantly increase the risk of cancer.
For black people, being lonely doubles the risk of early death (it increases 60-84 percent for white people).
For everyone, it's clear that social interaction is essential for survival: without human contact our blood pressure rises, inflammation ramps up - and many of us turn to unhealthy habits, that only serve to accelerate those issues.
The study by the American Cancer Society, published today, hammers home the true dangers of loneliness - which can feel exacerbated by the holiday season, a time where many feel that they should be surrounded by loved-ones.
The study by the American Cancer Society, published today, is the largest to date on all races and genders. It hammers home the true dangers of loneliness, which can feel heightened by the holiday season (file image)
Social isolation is different to loneliness. Loneliness is a temporary scenario (whether it feels that way or not). Social isolation is a prolonged lack of contact with other people or society.
The research is one of the first to confirm the tangible risks of social isolation to every racial group.
Previously, the only studies connecting social isolation with mortality risk showed a risk for white people but nobody else.
This research, a new prospective cohort study, sought to clarify whether there was a real difference - and there wasn't, really.
Human contact is key to survival.
Over the last century, our understanding of the evolutionary importance of physical and social interaction has developed dramatically. For centuries we've known it doesn't feel good, but recent studies have shown social isolation could be as dangerous as cigarette smoking.
But now, epidemiologists are peeling back the layers further to understand as precisely as possible what solitude does to our bodies, and how different bodies might respond.
As with most areas in medicine,