Being lonely can be as bad for you as smoking. Now you can take a quiz to find out if you're at risk.
- Loneliness is a big issue in the US, particularly among younger people.
- There's a scientific way to determine how lonely you are, called the UCLA Loneliness Scale.
- Health insurer Cigna on Wednesday released a 10-question version of the tool, made in partnership with Dr. Daniel Russell, who created the initial scale.
- You can take the quiz here.
Loneliness has reached epidemic levels in the US.
In May, health insurance company Cigna published results from a survey that found most American adults are considered lonely. Younger people, like millennials and Generation Z, are the loneliest.The company used a questionnaire based on the UCLA Loneliness Scale, which is the measure most widely used by researchers.
To help the rest of us get a sense of how lonely we might be, Cigna on Wednesday released a 10-question version of the questionnaire used for the UCLA Loneliness Scale in partnership with Dr. Daniel Russell, who created the initial scale.
Being lonely can have a big impact on your health, from disrupting sleep and increasing stress, to weakening a person's immune system. It's also associated with cognitive decline, heart disease, and greater frailty later on in life. And recent research has found that it has such a significant effect on mortality rates that loneliness could be considered a public health threat that's more harmful than obesity and about as bad as smoking.
"Loneliness is a normal feeling," Dr. Doug Nemecek, chief medical officer of behavioral health at Cigna told Business Insider. Everybody will feel lonely at some point in their lives. The key is to figure out who might be chronically lonely, which is what can have a negative impact on people's health, he said.
The test runs though questions such as "How often do you feel isolated from others?" and "How often do you feel that you have a lot in common with the people around you?" with options to answer "never," "rarely," "sometimes," or "always."
Starting in February, Cigna along with research firm Ipsos surveyed 20,000 US adults aged 18 or older to assess the state of loneliness using the UCLA questionnaire.
Possible loneliness scores ranged from 20 to 80 in the scale, with anything above 43 qualifying as "lonely." The average score was a 44, making most Americans qualify as lonely.
Just under half of respondents reported sometimes or always feeling alone or left out. About 27% of Americans said they feel that people rarely or never understand them. One-fifth of respondents said they rarely or never feel close to people, and just under half said they didn't have meaningful relationships or felt isolated.
Young people in particular reported high rates of loneliness, with rates gradually decreasing with age.
Take the quiz here.
Kevin Loria contributed reporting.