Why Loneliness Can Be As Bad For Your Health As Chronic Illness

Many of us have had times in the past few pandemic years when we’ve been lonelier than ever and it can feel like our social lives have yet to bounce back to the way things were before. So how bad for us is loneliness? Dominic Bowden from WellBeings chats to Dr Jonathan Leary, founder of the new social wellness club, Remedy Place.

WellBeings x Capsule

We all know that humans are a social species. How good does it feel to laugh with someone, share an inside joke, and know you have someone to turn to when you need to talk about something?

“Being alone or isolated can be more detrimental than some chronic conditions. It actually starts breaking down the body. The more that we isolate, the more that we become depressed, and the more that we get anxious.” says Dr Jonathan Leary, founder of social wellness Club, Remedy Place.

Dr Jonathan Leary wears a dark jacket, against a balcony background
Dr Jonathan Leary

He spoke in depth with Dominic Bowden on the latest episode of the WellBeings podcast about his journey from pre-med student working in hospitals to coming to the realization that perhaps the traditional medical route wasn’t his calling, and how after becoming a medical doctor, he went on a path of discovery, looking into ways that people could prevent illness rather than wait until they’re really sick before treating the symptoms. “It’s the ambulance at the bottom of the hill way of thinking,” says Dom.

“Back in the day,” says Jonathan, “if you needed to get medication or you needed to get surgery you just did it cos that’s what you were told. Now people are like, ‘I want that to be my last scenario’, and then if it does get to medication or surgery it still should be co-managed. There’s a time and place for it all, but there’s never a time where you shouldn’t be looking at lifestyle changes.”

On Dominic’s own wellness journey, a piece of advice that stood out to him was: “you’ve just got to be open, and we’re at a time where people are more open than ever before. They’re open to hearing new ways of thinking, they’re open to new modalities.”

Jonathan agrees with this, but adds that so many people are so inquisitive but getting the wrong information. He has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, and said that it killed him inside when he would hear all the misinformation that powerful people were getting. “If the most powerful people in the world are getting bad advice, how does that translate all the way down to the average individual?” he says.

“The foundational pillars on how to be healthy are pretty simplistic, but are overlooked, and if anyone tells you that there’s this shortcut, or this quick fix, it’s a lie. There are Band Aids in an emergency, and Band Aids to get you feeling better in an acute situation, but getting to the root cause and fixing it takes work.”

 A look into the newly opened Remedy Place in New York.
A look into the newly opened Remedy Place in New York.

The principal which is at the beating heart of the remedy movement is social connection. The importance of this came to light when his patients in his practice, who would say to him “My ‘xyz problems’ are gone and I’ve never felt better, but my social life is starting to suck, I’m beginning to feel isolated.”

Over the five years of developing his product, he was noticing that this new healthy lifestyle was inhibiting their social lives, so he was like, “I need to create a club that is temptation and toxin free and one that is going to enhance their social life at the same time”.

“If connection is enhanced,” he continues, “that’s also going to improve their health. These are clinically proven things.”

How Social Connection Improves Your Overall Health

1. Boosts Your Immunity

Several studies that followed patients with various diseases support the idea that social support can promote healing and immune function

2. Increases Brain Health

When we socialise, we rely on parts of our brains that are also important for memory and solving problems and puzzles. Social interaction works out our mind just as much as activities we commonly think of as “intellectually stimulating,” like a crossword or word games.

3. Improves Mental Health

Socialising can help decrease depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders as well as stabilise your moods. Several studies show links between loneliness and depression, finding that those with more social connections had less risk of becoming depressed.

4. Adds Longevity

Socialising can positively influence your health so much so, that it can even help you live longer. A study on Japanese elders found an incredible connection between mortality and a lack of social participation in their community.

“This has been an incredibly challenging time for us all,” says Dominic. “We have been looking out for each other and building community over the last two years, and we at Wellbeings want to celebrate all the benefits of how connection can be the most important thing we can all turn to for our wellbeing in the future.”

The full episode with Dr Jonathan Leary dives into everything from how movement can cure pain, the power of community in this new world and Jonathan poses the question, is your doctor the healthiest person you know? Listen to it on all your favorite streaming platforms here.

The WellBeings podcast is 100% backed by science and brought to you by AIA Vitality, a science-backed health and wellbeing programme that supports you every day to make healthier lifestyle choices. Learn more about their Vitality Programme here.

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