For years, we have been struggling with a major health crisis in the US: obesity. Obesity puts our lives at risk with consequences like heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular threats. With its secondary condition sleep apnea, it can also contribute to mood disorders and even your risk of car accidents.

But now the American Psychological Association (APA) is arguing that an even greater threat may be looming: loneliness and social isolation could be the most dangerous public health threat.

A man staring out a window

More Americans Isolated Than Ever

At its recent convention, the APA noted that being connected to others socially is a fundamental human need. Babies deprived of social contact can die. Isolation is even used as a form of punishment. Unfortunately, more and more people are being isolated by life, and the consequences may be deadly.

Currently, about 42.6 million adults over age 45 are suffering from chronic loneliness. This is likely to continue and even increase because more than a quarter of the US population lives alone, fewer people are getting married, and fewer people are having children.

Social isolation may also be fostered by changes in our digital culture. For example, the gig economy means that people are less likely to have meaningful human contact at the workplace. And social media encourages people to displace personal interactions with digital ones.

The Risks of Social Isolation

Social isolation may just be seen as changes in the way we are living, and it might not be a problem but for the evidence that social isolation can cause serious damage to your health. The APA pointed to two different meta-studies showing a strong link between isolation and death risk.

Meta-studies pool data from multiple individual studies to develop insight into questions the studies themselves could not answer. In the first study, 148 studies involving over 300,000 participants showed that having more social connections could reduce your risk of early death by up to 50%. The second study compiled data from 70 studies and 3.4 million participants showed that social isolation, loneliness, or just living alone all had an impact on mortality that was as great or greater than obesity.

Is Your Smile Making You Isolated?

If you’re unhappy with the appearance of your smile, it can contribute to your risk of social isolation. Not being confident in your smile can make it harder for you to engage socially, and it can make it harder for you to find a life partner. If you are unhappy with your smile, you might avoid social situations where you’ll be expected to smile. And once you start avoiding social occasions, you’ll note that your circle of friend begins to shrink.

Dentures are a big problem for older Americans. Having no dentures or poorly fitting dentures has been linked to social isolation among older people. More attractive and functional dentures can help people stay social as they get older.

When it comes to problems like this, we have to look at the parts of the equation that we can change. You may not be able to change the economy or make people more likely to interact personally, but you can control your smile. And if your smile is making you less likely to be social, it’s time to get it fixed. Want to learn how we can help your smile? Please call (614) 848-5001 today for an appointment with Columbus, OH cosmetic dentist Dr. Mike Firouzian.