Any discussion about how to combat loneliness should be based upon a clear understanding of what loneliness is, and how it affects your health.
Loneliness is not solitude or social isolation. Solitude is an intentional time in which you pull away, separating yourself to reflect or rejuvenate. Social isolation may be the result of circumstances. Loneliness, however, is a feeling. It’s a perception that isn’t based upon any social setting or circumstance.
Feelings of loneliness are independent of whether other people are around. On the other hand, research indicates that both physical and social isolation are strong predictors of loneliness.
People who are lonely can feel: as if they don’t belong; that nobody cares or knows them; isolated; ostracized; abandoned; disconnected; empty; purposeless; incomplete; like something is missing in life; out of touch; empty; unwanted; unloved; ignored; excluded; or shut out.
All of us, from all walks of life, may
experience loneliness to varying degrees. Contrary to popular belief, loneliness
spans all age groups, so it isn’t just an old-age problem. A recent CIGNA study
of 20,000 U.S. adults found that nearly half feel like they’re alone, and it’s
creating a serious health crisis.
According to an AARP’s 2010 Loneliness Study, being lonely often goes hand in hand with poor health. Two meta-analyses found that loneliness can increase the risk of early death. It not only can speed up death in people who are ill, it puts healthy people at risk for a range of physical and mental illnesses.
According to former U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy, the reduction in life span for loneliness is similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day – greater than the decreased lifespan impact of obesity.
Loneliness is linked to numerous conditions such as coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, frailty and cognitive decline. It can also lead to destructive habits such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, promiscuity, shopping, and an inordinate amount of tv and screen time for those seeking escape from those feelings.
Clearly, answering the question as to how to combat loneliness is one that must be addressed as a serious, wide-scale public health problem.
Knowing how to combat loneliness requires understanding its causes. Being socially connected is considered a fundamental human need. The list of the causes of loneliness is quite long. It includes the following:
Our thoughts affect us; and, therefore, they affect the world around us. Our brains are geared to relate to others. So, what are some of the ways in which can we make meaningful connections with other people?
The following tips may be helpful to show you how to combat loneliness in your life.
If you recognize yourself in any of the above, or know someone who is lonely, please use and share this information. If you suspect that someone is lonely, invite them to join you for coffee. Include them in an activity or occasion so they can develop connections with other people.
Knowing what loneliness is, what it means to your health, and the causes of loneliness enables a deeper understanding of how to combat loneliness in meaningful ways.