How to Not Die

If you’re looking for a new way to torture an enemy or someone you know, you might consider social deprivation. A new study has investigated the results of social deprivation in a group of monkeys, and the results are not optimistic.

Say goodbye to self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and independence. Humans are programmed to operate best when in the company of other humans. I suppose this is good news for anyone who is already in a codependent relationship. You’re ahead of the rest of us.

No matter what your feelings are, humans remain social animals. You cannot avoid it. Socialization is a requirement, it is not a suggestion, unless you want to die sooner than everybody else. You can thank Dean Ornish. He reviewed the literature on the relationship between social isolation and human mortality, and he found that you will die three to five times sooner than the average person from all causes if you continue to live out a life in isolation.

When Thoreau said he was off to live a life in solitude to “front only the essential facts of life,” he failed to mention how close his neighbors lived (about a mile distant), and how liberally he dined and socialized with them. By no means did he actually carry out his life in any semblance of true solitude. Thoreau is a romantic hero, an emblem of idealism no real human could ever hope to emulate.

Not only are you more likely to die from lack of social contact, but Gary Kraemer has found several other adverse effects of living alone he has termed isolation syndrome. Seeing as we have evolved from monkeys, it makes sense that he has used monkeys for the basis of his experiment. He found monkeys raised alone exhibited far from typical monkey behavior. For one thing, they failed to engage in reciprocal interactions with other monkeys. 

In between savage attacks, they’re unable to find a mate or provide any sort of mammalian affection for their young. The monkeys reared in isolation were also prone to fighting to the death. If you don’t die from isolation, you are going to die from someone who has lived in isolation. In no scenario do you win.

However, violence towards other monkeys isn’t enough. The monkeys in isolation also had a brutal tendency to bite off their own arms, bang their head against the wall, and gouge out their eyes.  The conclusion: without external guidance on behavior from other humans, you will self-destruct. Premature death awaits you.

There’s also an easy solution to avoiding inevitable death: simply find a human you like and attach yourself. Try to avoid scratching, clawing, or otherwise poking out their eyes, and I’d say you’re off to an auspicious start to a life of near immortality.

Whatever you do, avoid isolation at all costs.