I’ll cut to the chase. Research shows that for middle-aged men the greatest health threat is loneliness. Research shows that men let their friendships lapse as they focus on careers and family. Over time, that cause a range of physical and mental health problems, and these problems get worse after retirement when the men no longer have their work friends. Loneliness and isolation lead to health problems, and it only gets worse as people age.
Beginning in the 1980s, Schwartz says, study after study started showing that those who were more socially isolated were much more likely to die during a given period than their socially connected neighbors, even after you corrected for age, gender, and lifestyle choices like exercising and eating right. Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and the progression of Alzheimer’s. One study found that it can be as much of a long-term risk factor as smoking.
The research doesn’t get any rosier from there. In 2015, a huge study out of Brigham Young University, using data from 3.5 million people collected over 35 years, found that those who fall into the categories of loneliness, isolation, or even simply living on their own see their risk of premature death rise 26 to 32 percent.