Baby boomers who live alone may be putting their health at risk.

According to a recent article on Baby Boomers and loneliness in the Wall Street Journal, roughly one in 11 people age 50 and older lives alone without a spouse, partner, child or roommate. Loneliness caused by living alone can take a physical toll. It could be just as bad for you as being obese, smoking cigarettes or alcoholism.

The Journal article says that social isolation can have a powerful effect on people’s health, giving government officials cause for concern. People who live alone and need medical care cost Medicare $6.7 billion a year. Often they have no one at home to help them. Sometimes their only choice is the hospital or skilled nursing facility.

Why the increase in solo status by this generation? Statistically, Baby Boomers who live alone chose to have fewer children. They also ended more marriages than previous generations. The U.S. census estimates that one in four boomers is divorced or has never married.

The Journal also cites a recent survey by the University of Chicago on the subject. The study asked people how often they lacked companionship, felt left out or felt isolated from others. Boomers – the generation that popularized communes and living together before marriage – reported these feelings more often than any other age group. They even surpassed older seniors from the Greatest Generation.