"Living alone was not associated with dying prematurely for those in the highest socioeconomic group — the 19 percent of study participants who had a university degree or worked in an executive position. But for the rest, the lower the socioeconomic status, the higher the risk for death. The authors emphasize that the remaining 81 percent of the population was not deprived or living in poverty, but consisted mainly of middle-class and skilled and unskilled workers."
Socioeconomic class moderates mortality even among the loners? That's not unexpected.
That said, I wonder if Danish society contributes particularly to loneliness. Most happiness studies (a trend in recent years) place Denmark at the top of happiness indices, but my understanding is happiness in this context often doesn't reflect an emotional well-being among individuals, only a quantitative aggregate one. Much has been said about the Danish concept of hygge (cozyness) but Scandinavian life in general is very privatized. I wonder if Danish social connectedness metrics are perhaps not so stellar.
It's fuzzy because it was a few years ago, but I remember she said that it's common for young Danish people to move to the city when they become adults and completely lose touch with their families, and that social relationships at least in Copenhagen tended to be unfulfilling and superficial.
Entirely hearsay. I'd be curious to hear other perspectives. (She was also older than the millennial generation, so may have been out of touch herself.)
You don't ever talk to strangers. If you do, its superficial, or e.g. something crazy is taking place in a public space you can't avoid commenting on. So if you're not good at striking up conversation or don't look friendly, you'll simply never meet new people. No-one will talk to you unprovoked, ever.
Therefore, most Danes are only in a single close-knit group with their friends from school, since it's really the only place where you are forced to meet new people. As a result of this, it's extremely hard to "break in" to a new group of friends if you've for example moved to Denmark from another country or just moved to another city.
I suspect most Danes find social gratification through work. We're good at keeping a cosy working culture which involves lots and lots of cake (and alcohol, at parties.)
Most Danes I know maybe talk to one or two friends regularly and are totally content with that. Myself, I only regularly talk to my parents and my work mates – the rest have steadily disappeared from my life.
So what I found out is that most women in Scandinavia preached one thing, but had no problem throwing their principals out the gate just to get what they want. Wich in term point me to the conclusion that they have urges that the social system does not satisfy.
But here is the funny thing that makes Scandinavians truly unique. It is possible to have sex with someone, and have a great time, only for them to completely avoid you if they cross you randomly on the street.
I wonder if the "happiness" part is a misnomer and should actually be "contentment". Having experienced the Nordic/Scandinavian cutlures, myself (Sweden), they are pretty private but it's not impossible to have a social life - compared to, say, Ireland. I think the general demeanor of Scandinavians is pretty jovial but this also seems to be geographically-dependent (e.g.: city versus "country").
All of that being said, it's no surprise that the more money you have, the longer you live. I have a suspicion that it is related to the lesser amounts of stressors regarding to any fiscal matters.
(Not saying that no one stresses about fiscal matters in that 19% but if it is due to fewer fiscal stressors, then it might be worth noting.)
I wonder what the break-down of the cardiovascular health group is...
My origins are Canadian and I definitely understand the kind of quiet contentment where most people have all their basic needs met and then some; but living in an extroverted city in America (Chicago) where people are warm and friendly makes me think a substantial segment of the population here are emotionally happier and better connected, even though there's more crime, no free healthcare and fewer social services. The Latino population for instance appear to be somewhat happy and connected even though they have their fair share of struggles.
This isn't true of all of the U.S. -- northern states like Minnesota are definitely more austere and introverted. (Minnesota is also strongly Scandinavian)
If we look at Scandinavian societies in comparison to the rest of the world and taking in consideration things like family, social connections, friendships, and general person to person connections, then you end up with a sad sad story.
Especially for an outsider living in Scandinavia. Basically one observes a pack of humanoid-like snow people that have a compeletly different value system from the rest of the world. Weak social and family relations, no morals outside of what is legal and not, and the worst of all is that they have the feeling that they are better.
A lot can be told about these people by looking at their past.
Yes, I do live here and I do believe that "When in Rome...", but this is not Rome, it's like more like a zoo with golden toilets and snow monkeys.
Ok, it’s not precisely the same country but they’re very close
Having someone else around to nag you into going to the doctor when you otherwise might not go, etc.
I went to the ER three times last year because of these pains (and one time several years before that). The last three or four times it happened since then I just stayed at home and tried to relax. But it scares the hell out of me that one of these times it could be more than that, and I'll choose not to go to the ER and that'll be the one that kills me.
It wasn't always just chest pain either, I had other symptoms, like a weak left arm, lightheaded, short of breath, pain in other areas of my body as well, heart beating really fast, etc. Common heart attack symptoms, and now I don't know if I should go or not when it happens again. Even my girlfriend is skeptical when I tell her I'm feeling this way now.
The one thing I can say is that the worry itself seems to make things about a million times worse. I've made a big effort to remove stress from my life and it seems to have helped. With my medicine, I had to explain to my doctor that "10% chance of side effect X" doesn't mean that it's very unlikely that the side effect I'm having is from the medicine -- rather that he should expect that 10% of his patients taking the medicine will get that side effect from it. Amazing, but he'd never realised that before. Now he's a lot more cooperative about choosing medicine that doesn't cause serious problems :-).
I think a big part, though, is that having a belief that you are healthy makes a big difference in how you interpret problems with your body. For me, once I got things checked out I reasoned that the chance that they've made a mistake is quite small. So while I may have a symptom it does not necessarily follow that I have a serious problem. Getting it checked out is important, but once you have, then worrying is only likely to make you ill. So far that's worked well for me. YMMV.
(But as you say -- still scary as hell if you think about it too much...)
I am not eating healthy enough or exercising anywhere near enough still to feel confident enough that I'm healthy. I need to course correct for that. Work really hasn't helped lately. A lot of late nights and stress, and my willpower goes to shit when I'm stressed.
Also, while I hesitate to recommend calling EMS out unnecessarily, you may refuse transport to the hospital even if you've called 911 for a possible emergency, in the U.S. Paramedics can do an EKG, and while hospitals can additionally use bloodwork to rule out tissue death, you could make the choice to refuse further medical treatment once the paramedics have seen no signs of a heart attack.
I went to a cardiologist a few years ago, but basically he had me do a stress test and an EKG, said 'you're fine', told me to exercise 7 days a week!? for a year (like no day off, no guidance on how intense it should be, just that comment), and wanted me to see him again a year later. It didn't leave a good taste in my mouth and I didn't go back.
They did a bunch of EKGs during my episodes at the ER and they all came back normal, so I think I just need to do the stress test, for now. I had an echocardiogram done when I first went to the hospital for this a few years ago, and that was normal also.
BUT, that $1300 really caught me by surprise because about five years ago I had gone to the same hospital, for the same thing, and let myself be admitted to stay overnight for more tests, and that only cost me $450 ($150 copay and $300 for a doctor that visited during that).
And yeah, that's one reason why I hesitate to go to ER now. Having to pay about $4000 for a few ER visits and a few extra tests afterwards that all came back negative was not my idea of a fun way to spend money that summer (fun fact, I also had to pay $4000 in car repairs that same summer. It was a fun summer).
This was my first thought as well when I saw the study. The study doesn't really indicate if deaths are do to this factor or to other longer term factors. I wonder how much of the study (and it might not be much) can be explained by not having someone around to call 911. Or if you are living alone not having something like life alert. Additionally, something like life alert does not always help. Falls is a major issue for older populations, and if you are knocked out because of a fall (or fall because you passed out) having someone to call an ambulance is critical.
So, Apple Watch or similar tech?
I expect vitals monitoring to become more commonplace. It doesn't help with your second example, though.
The misery of the one who cares for you at that moment being a smartwatch is enough to cut years off ones life.
More realistically, I can imagine that about a homecare worker.
about the latter... I know doctors don't like when people inflates tiny issues but I've seen a few people die because they didn't listen to naggers around them
Finding parity is quite difficult, particularly when you already take good care of yourself.
Sure, it's possible for someone with bad personal habits to be a negative influence on someone who struggles to maintain their own good habits, but two people with generally good habits can easily create positive feedback that allows them both to improve.
My wife and I have actually driven each other to be better than either of us alone ever were. We're fitter and healthier than we ever were, and it's largely because on nights I don't want to go the gym she does - we act as each-others champions.
Also, it's surprising to find out the things you don't about yourself until you see it through another person's eyes.
Statistically speaking, 75%+ of the adults in the US are overweight. That is the pool being drawn from.
So when you're not in the overweight majority, and have no interest in cohabitating with an overweight person who presumably lives a lifestyle contributing to being overweight, you already have just 25% or less of the population to pick from.
Now you need to find within that fraction someone you actually like as a person, who doesn't have any of the other unhealthy habits unrelated to being overweight you want nothing to do with.
Your biases seem to be driving your views more than your supposed rationality, at least on this issue.
There are plenty of obvious reasons people likely to die young would end up alone. It's natural to not be attracted to people likely to die young, it's a behavior our evolution has selected for.
We're not attracted to sick-looking people, for example.
That's cool if you set your standards extraordinarily high and you can't find someone because of it, but don't blame evolution, realize you set those standards.
I'm pointing out obvious reasons people who die prematurely would also be alone, pointing out obvious flaws with the article's unscientific claims.
People who are sick are less attractive to the opposite sex, this is a deeply-rooted evolutionary trait. I'm saying this in reference to one of many obvious reasons people destined to die early also are alone. Few want to date or live with seriously ill people. They're arguably not dying young because they're alone, they're alone because they're sick and likely to die young.
I made no such claim that evolution explains my personal choices on this topic as it pertains to my life, no sir, I proudly own those 100%.
My argument is that "evolutionary attraction" isn't actually a phenomena. Our interests have swung wildly from valuing huge to tiny and from pale to tan all due to cultural shifts, not because of an innate inbuilt evolutionary mechanism - there was no filtering of genes due to these features. Heroin chic was a thing, and that's downright sickly.
The bigger issue I see is not living alone, but living without a social net -- I personally really enjoy living alone, but I also have regular social gatherings in my life.
Anecdotal, but my grandfather insisted on living alone - he drove, went to the bar and hung out with his friends every single day, and someone in our family would either visit him or talk to him on the phone a few times a week - in other words, a social net.
He insisted on his independence and liked his space, so we didn't harass him every single day even though he only lived 15 minutes away.
One evening, he fell down and couldn't get to the phone. He was on the floor for probably just 36 hours before we found out and called the ambulance. He died a few days later in the hospital, having never fully emerged from his diabetic coma.
We thought that checking in with him every other day was enough, but it was not.
I don't think that correlation works like you think it works.
It was incredibly scary for a young kid trying to find a job and start a new life. I immediately saw the value in the door-to-door checkup services for the elderly.
"3 years ago, my sister found me unresponsive covered in my own vomit and shit in my bed. Called 911 and my life was saved. All I had was the flu, but it had caused brain swelling. The last thing I remember was going to sleep the night before, feeling perfectly fine.
The ONLY reason I'm alive is because I was supposed to dog-sit for my sister's best friend starting that day. When she couldn't get a hold of me, she notified my sister, who came to my house to check on me."
How is that in any way paradoxical? High density living causes people to subconsciously value individual connections less as they are surrounded by people in their day to day lives. This causes them to seek out alone time because their bodies are fatigued from the constant interaction. And causes them to have less social energy to devote to the people close to them.
High density living performs the same trick on the brain that social media does. It fools a persons mind into thinking they are not alone, but in reality they are actually spending all of that time without individual close human connection. In reality they are spending all of their time alone. Along with that comes all physiological aspects of that constant alone time. Things like depression and general lack of emotional depth that we know has a significant effect on life expectancy.
That doesn't sound right to me - what makes you say that?
Bay area is one of the worst places to find a girlfriend though, so if this is important for you, you need to move to a place with different supply/demand balance.
I'm not going to document them here in any significant detail.
Just requiring things like no drugs, including alcohol, or junk food including sweets / sodas / baked goods / ice cream be kept in the home where conveniently accessible already eliminates the vast majority of Americans in my experience.
If I were to exhaustively write down the common disparities WRT my standards this would turn into a short novel.
I'm no longer in the Bay area. Most of my relationship experience happened prior to living the Bay area, back in the midwest. You're right about the Bay area being awful for finding a girlfriend, it's all dudes on the market. My Bay area experiences were more in the cohabitating context, splitting rent with randoms.
If I wanted a family it would be a very frustrating situation, and I would probably go to a different country honestly.
But I don't, so now I just watch in disbelief as most the friends I grew up with destroy themselves in unhealthy marriages where they can't even go on a kayak trip because it'd leave their partner alone. Or can't abstain from eating cake every other day because it'd offend their partner to reject something they made. Nope.
This sounds crazy... though I'd never reject a cake that my girlfriend makes. She's a dietitian, 45kg (99 lbs) / 165cm, and I admire her discipline in restricting the amount of both fat and sugar in her diet (and the food she makes...you know cakes don't have to be that bad). She's my model for eating healthy.
At the same time I was 2-3 times in the U.S., and I went into a fast restaurant once, as I didn't know where I should go to eat (later I found out about Whole foods, that was my go to fast food location).
What was really funny for me, that you could buy 1l of coke, and you could refill it for free. I thought it's just marketing, as I wouldn't imagine any person being able to drink more than 1l of that sh*t. Guess what, I was disproved in 5 minutes. I mean do people really hate living that much in the U.S.?
But I don't think that particular "eat what I cook or I'm upset" phenomenon is unique to the US. My mother, an Italian, would overfeed everyone within reach and lose her mind if turned down. The food was delicious, but absolutely not healthy in either nutrition or quantity. Her worth in life was almost entirely defined by her traditional cooking.
There's a common form of relationship which exists almost entirely around shared experiences of eating "comfort food", which is really just foods that poke the reward centers of the brain. This literally becomes the foundation of all happiness between the couple. The food is no different from a shared drug addiction between two addicts.
Anyways I have a girlfriend who is much more organized than me, and she happily does things after me as well (in return I bring her to restaurants all the time, and paying for everything in our lives, as I have much higher income). If you find a great partner, life gets easier.
I realized some time ago that I hate house work so much that it's just not worth for me to do it and leave it to other people who like it more than me. Also for me it takes about 3x the time to do the same house work as other people.
The great thing in specialization is that everybody does what he/she is good and efficient at and/or likes.
I've minimized my lifestyle so that it doesn't require a double income to sustain. Work becomes a choice instead of a burden.
This leads me to this: it's interesting to think about which way the correlation goes - are these early deaths caused by living alone, or is it a symptom of other things wrong in their life that lead to a lack of girlfriends and random people and family in their life?
When I first moved to the USA from India, 20 years ago, I sought the help of a realtor to find a house in New England Area. He figured I was earning more than his clientele base and started showing me houses which were secluded and touted it as a huge plus. My reaction then (now I am sympathetic to isolation as a luxury and privilege) was that he was showing me such dives because I was a minority. In India, you were never far away from people and isolation was a novelty that you dabbled with in your vacation time (mountain resorts and such). As life would have it, I ended up in Manhattan later in life.
Not paradoxical at all, considering the rash of entire old neighborhoods being torn down, to be replaced with exercise shoppes and bubble-tea shoppes and rectilinearly-architected enclaves of mere empty-headed dormitude. Faux-wood-trimmed concrete festooned with dark-blue surveillance knobs and plastic trees are fairly inadequate stand-ins for soul.
So ... how do we like this music, hmmm?
Maybe instead the economy should be redesigned so the haves vs have nots isn’t so extreme and force social interaction amount the two groups. But most importantly this would combat the stress (cortisol) such a large segment of society has as a result of financial burdens and debt.
Correlation != Causation
Kind of why drugs don't work in the same way with everyone. Too many subtle differences (blood type, chromosomes, dna, age, hormone levels, deficiencies etc.)