Though our need to connect is innate, many of us frequently feel alone. Even some people who are surrounded by others throughout the day—or are in a long-lasting marriage—still experience a deep and pervasive loneliness.
Feelings of loneliness and isolation affect all types and ages of people, although some, like adolescents, are more likely to be impacted than others. The elderly are also at high risk. Research indicates that more than 20 percent of people over age 60 frequently feel intensely lonely.
Suffering from loneliness is somewhat like suffering from physical pain: In one study, brain scans of lonely individuals who received a dose of Tylenol showed reduced activity in pain-processing areas of the brain. In addition, loneliness can heighten the fight-or-flight response—the physiological reaction a person has when facing a threat.