Loneliness a 'major health epidemic as deadly as smoking'
Modern life has never been as crowded as it is right now. The demands of work, family, friends and social media mean that we’re more hyperconnected than ever before, and in constant contact with others.
But in a shocking 60 Minutes investigation, experts tonight reveal that loneliness has become a major health epidemic and is as harmful as smoking.
Tom Steinfort’s alarming report airs 7pm tonight on Channel 9. For more on 60 Minutes, visit the official website.
Reporter Tom Steinfort speaks with clinical psychologist and researcher Dr Tegan Cruwys, who has studied the impact of loneliness in people over five, 10 and 15 years.
She tells 60 Minutes the stress from loneliness seriously damages the body’s immune system as well as our mental health.
“What we find is that while smoking, obesity are certainly important predictors, actually being lonely, feeling isolated seems to be one of the – if not the – most important predictor,” Dr Cruwys says.
It’s a health epidemic that is not just troubling experts in Australia. Most countries across the globe are now struggling with ways to cope with the heartbreaking and deadly issue.
In Tokyo, Japan, Steinfort meets Mr Nishida, who tragically lost his wife to cancer and became estranged from his daughter.
Despite living in the busy capital with a population of over nine million, he became incredibly isolated and lonely – until he discovered a surprising service.
For the price of 40,000 Yen – almost A$500 – Mr Nishida hires two women to play the role of his wife and daughter for an afternoon.
“The time we spend together makes me very happy, it’s as simple as that,” he tells Steinfort.
“I’m not looking for any kind of romance. I would never consider a romantic relationship outside of this service with these women.
“I just enjoy the time we have.”
As Steinfort reports, loneliness is impacting even the biggest of Hollywood stars.
Star Trek actor William Shatner opens up to 60 Minutes on the loneliness that he has grappled with for most of his working life.
“I'm very happy with my life. I'm happily married. I've got a great family. I've joined a lot of stuff,” he said.
“But underneath it all is loneliness.”
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019