Lindy West at Jezebel:
New research suggests that chronic longterm loneliness is physically detrimental to your health and longevity; even more detrimental, possibly, than our nation's favorite bogeyman, obesity. This is, of course, a horrible confirmation of what we've long suspected, though those suspicions always felt more superstitious than substantial—just a thing you say, just a metaphor. This hurts SO much. Can you DIE of loneliness? But could it actually be true?
The thing that Americans have been fed to forget, and with good reason, is that we are the most social mammal on earth. Indeed, our level sociality, which has developed over millions of years and intensified with the recent invention of the city (the ultimate human social machine), rivals that of the great social insects. The human is somewhere between the ant and the chimp. But appreciating this sociality, which is not only cultural but biological, means accepting the fact that our wealth is generated by exactly this sociality. And an awareness of this kind is great for the those who are in the unlucky situation of having little wealth and not so great for those who are lucky enough to have too much of it. The wealthy, then, have imposed an ideology of the individual on our social body.
One of the many consequences of this ideology is that, as a society, we do not treat loneliness as seriously as we should. We instead see it as a problem of the individual, as something the loner can resolve on his or her own. Hence the spectacular success of self-help books. Hence the low media visibility of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, a book John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick. Their point is simple: Loneliness is to our kind of sociality what a broken leg is to a body's ability to walk or a broken arm is to a body's ability to lift things. As a consequence, a society that emphasizes the individual makes it difficult to properly mend what has been broken in the loner, a connection with his/her sociality, meaning a connection with the kind of animal they are.
You can watch Cacioppo make this argument here...
Loneliness is real and has real consequences.