Turns out, a lack of friends can shorten the human lifespan as much as more well-known killers like smoking and alcohol consumption. In fact, the effects of social isolation actually outweigh some of the much-touted risk factors for mortality, like obesity and lack of exercise. In other words, you might be better off sitting on the sofa at home rather than going jogging, as long as there's someone else on the sofa with you.
Earlier studies blamed this early-death phenomenon on loneliness: after all, being lonely sucks, and there's only so many birthdays you can spend crying alone in front of a single cupcake with a candle in it before it starts to affect your health. But more recent research suggests that it's the isolation itself that does the killing. A 2013 study of elderly people in the U.K. found that while simply reporting feelings of loneliness had no effect on one's likelihood of dying anytime soon, social isolation increased a person's likelihood of death by 26 percent when compared with more social people in a similar age range. So even if you're perfectly happy to spend all your time alone accompanied only by a vaguely human-shaped mannequin painted to look like Andrew WK (and who wouldn't?), Death's bony form will still be creeping up behind you.
How Does That Work?
Part of this is obvious: if you avoid other humans, you're less likely to figure out that the lump on the back of your neck is growing, or that one of your limbs has become possessed and needs to be removed. And no matter how much your cat loves you, it probably won't call an ambulance when you're choking.
Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images
It might put together a nice bouquet for the funeral, though. And then eat it.