Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need, crucial to both well-being and survival. Loneliness fails to engender the sense of connectedness and belonging that is critical for human thriving.
Loneliness have always been a problem that have been overlooked until recent years. The impact that loneliness has on mental health, even physical health is significant, and people struggles with it without knowing what to do. Facing the pandemic, gave us an inside to how loneliness and social isolation can affect us. After the pandemic the number of mental health issues have increased. Now more than ever, loneliness needs to be understood, and given attention to, so we can provide the right support to those inside the loneliness loophole.
Lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder. It is also twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity. There is robust evidence that loneliness increases the risk of attempted suicide (Holt-Lunstad et al, 2015).
The BBC's research on Loneliness in 2021 found that 40% of young people now feel lonely VS 27% of over 75's (See all the stats in the infographic here.). A study in the U.S with more than 6,000 showed that adults linked frequent loneliness to dissatisfaction with one’s family, social and community life. Approximately 28 percent of those dissatisfied with their family life feel lonely all or most of the time, compared with just 7 percent of those satisfied with their family life. Satisfaction with one’s social life follows a similar pattern: 26 percent of those dissatisfied with their social lives are frequently lonely, compared with just 5 percent of those who are satisfied with their social lives and community (Bialik, 2018).
Loneliness can occur when people are surrounded by others—on the subway, in a classroom, or even with their spouses and children, loneliness is not synonymous with chosen isolation or solitude. Rather, loneliness is defined by people’s levels of satisfaction with their connectedness, or their perceived social interaction (Rokach, 2000).
Loneliness can affect the individual, physical, mental and cognitive health. The adverse health consequences including the development of depression, anxiety, stress, suicidal ideation, impaired executive functions, poor sleep quality, accelerated cognitive decline and some physical problems such as heart attack, cancer, low immunity at every stage of lifespan (Hawkley, 2015). According to a study by Valtorta et al (2016), 30 percent of people suffering loneliness showed risk of stroke or development of heart disease. It was also identified the risk of psychological, behavioural and biological illness.
A lonely wolf can’t survive without its pack. In nature you can see the need to be part of a pack. We are not different; we thrive when we are part of a community or a tribe. We have the need to belong.
10 Sings of deep loneliness:
1- Crying often and feeling sad
2- Feeling lie the “disposable” person in a group
3- Putting people’s needs before your own
4- Feeling the need to be overly helpful or nice
5- Feeling isolated and like no one really sees you
6- Feeling like you don’t belong anywhere
7- Become obsessive with friendships
8- Emotionally overeating
9- Feeling distanced from family and friends
10- Feeling rejected
Loneliness can lead to depression. Here are a few things you can do to start feeling better:
1. Be around people
2. Talk to someone online or on the phone
3. Consider peer support
4. Focus on things you enjoy
5. Take part on social meet ups
6. Physical activities
7. Think about therapy
It is natural to feel lonely at some point, but don’t let it get you down. Reach out to friends or try other creative ways to meet new people and make connections. Remember that you are not alone in how you feel and there are so many people who are going through the same challenges as you. You can ask for help and support when things get tough, and it is okay to talk about how you’re feeling. Vulnerability is a strength don’t be shy about it.
You can be in charge of your emotional wellbeing! Take the first step today towards creating lasting change in your life.
Bialik, K. (2018). Americans unhappy with family, social or financial life are more likely to say they feel lonely. PEW research center, Washington, DC.
Booth, R. (2000). Loneliness as a component of psychiatric disorders. Medscape General Medicine, 2, 1–7.
Cacioppo, J. T., & Patrick, W. (2008). Loneliness: Human nature and the need for social connection. WW Norton & Company.
Hawkley, L. C., & Capitanio, J. P. (2015). Perceived social isolation, evolutionary fitness and health outcomes: a lifespan approach. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370(1669), 20140114.
Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review. Perspectives on psychological science, 10(2), 227-237.
Valtorta, N. K., Kanaan, M., Gilbody, S., Ronzi, S., & Hanratty, B. (2016). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies. Heart, 102(13), 1009-1016.
Victor, C. R., & Yang, K. (2012). The prevalence of loneliness among adults: a case study of the United Kingdom. The Journal of psychology, 146(1-2), 85-104.
Rokach, A. (2000). Loneliness and the life cycle. Psychological Reports, 86(2), 629-642.