Employee Health: The Negative Effects of Loneliness

Many employee surveys focus on employee satisfaction, as it is assumed that satisfied, happy employees will be more productive and have higher retention rates. However, a growing amount of research evidence has shown that employee engagement comes with increased communication on the job. And that increased communication can have a positive effect on more than work productivity. 

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If you're interested in going a little deeper with your employees you might consider gearing your survey to not only address work satisfaction, but also life satisfaction. You might help employees consider their contentedness in all areas of their life as a way to evaluate their career path and address their life goals. One area we'd like to shed a little light on is the issue of loneliness and how it effect employee health. 

Loneliness Considered a Public Health Problem
Scientists have identified significant links between illness and loneliness, making it a serious public health problem. The damage inflicted on the body by loneliness may be comparable to the effects of smoking, diabetes and obesity.

Researchers have known for years that lonely people are at a greater risk for metastatic cancer, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s and other illnesses. But they haven’t understood why until recently, when they discovered how the immune system responds in lonely people. What they found was that social isolation increased the activity of genes responsible for inflammation while it decreased the activity of genes that produce antibodies that fight infection.

These abnormalities were discovered in white blood cells called monocytes—one of the body’s first lines of defense against infection. When monocytes are immature, they cause inflammation and reduce antibody protection. Coincidentally, these immature monocytes are abundant in lonely people.

Evolution may be partially to blame. Scientists suggest that this link may be the result of the brain’s attempt to encourage socialization and cooperation as activities necessary for survival—causing us pain when we’re lonely the same way we experience pain when we’re hungry. The constant fear of this pain can make lonely people feel threatened, so they sometimes act negatively toward others. This makes it difficult for lonely people to make and maintain relationships and increases their chances of becoming ill.

Even taking the time to read this blog is an important step in caring for your employees' health. Perhaps creating an employee engagement survey could be the next step to creating a healthier, more vibrant work community. 

At Beimdiek Insurance, we provide a wide range of employee benefits to keep your employees healthy and happy. We provide insight, tools and services to keep your employees engaged in your company for the long-haul. Contact the expert team at Beimdiek for more helpful HR consulting, including thoughts on team morale,  employee retention, and guidance on reaching your company goals.

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