Scientists at the University of North Carolina now believe that a teenagers are just as much at risk.
Isolation can cause harmful changes to the body in adolescents just as in the elderly. Those with fewer friends are significantly more likely to have high levels of inflammation and higher blood pressure when they reach adulthood.
The scientists examined four age groups to find out why lonely people die earlier and are more susceptible to many diseases.
A large group of 12 – 18 year olds were asked about their friends and 8 years later had their blood pressure, bmi, and a test to measure inflammation. Social isolation made the teenagers 27% more likely to have high inflammation, a sign of biological stress, in their early adulthood.
A professor of sociology at the university, Kathleen Harris, said scientists had been concerned with the impact of loneliness on the elderly but had overlooked the impact on younger people. “Young people are not as healthy as they appear …. because of the obesity epidemic“.
The weight of the adolescents was also a confounding factor in the study as those who were obese as teenagers were twice as likely to have high inflammation as adults. But were the overweight teenagers less popular because of their weight?
Nevertheless the scientists concluded that an adolescence spent in solitude was likely to lead to health problems later in life. After age 18 the size of the social network don’t matter until people reached old age.