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Loneliness is a growing problem these days, and it could ruin your health. According to Newsweek Magazine, we’re 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.

And social networking sites like Facebook, aren’t helping the situation either. 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: Quality relationships won’t just keep you happy, they’ll keep you healthy too.

New research has linked loneliness to heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, depression and suicide. Other studies have shown that lonely people drink more, eat more and exercise less than happier people.

So how do you turn this around? For some it’s easy – join a group, take a class, attend church. But for other people, loneliness can be very deeply ingrained. For them, therapy might be the answer. It could help a lonely person develop meaningful relationships, which is the best way to fight back.