Loneliness is a growing problem these days, and it could ruin your health. Americans are three times lonelier today than we were 20 years ago. 

So why is loneliness on the rise? Well, psychologists say there are several reasons. 

One is that we lead far more separate lives now than we used to. Before, we stayed close to our families and hometowns and developed life-long relationships. Now, a MAJORITY of us are unmarried and living alone. According to the book “The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century,” a whole generation of people are more focused on work and technology than they are on personal relationships. 

And social networking sites like Facebook, aren’t helping the situation. Dr. John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago is an expert on loneliness. He says keeping up with people on Facebook can actually increase lonely feelings. Cacciopo says those virtual connections are like celery, at first they feel good, but ultimately they leave you feeling empty. 

Psychologists agree: real human interaction is the best prescription for loneliness. And real relationships will keep you healthy too.

New research has linked loneliness to heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, depression and suicide. Dr. Cacciopo says that loneliness causes high stress levels and can actually weaken your immune system. 

So how do you turn this around? Well, loneliness is a complex problem that can be very deeply ingrained for some people. For them, therapy might be the answer. For others, taking a class, volunteering or joining a group are the best ways to connect with others.