The Thing with Loneliness
by Gabriela Matic
Can lonely make you ill?
Researchers say: Yes! Even if you feel happy in your solitude, studies associate social isolation and loneliness with increased mortality. I have to admit that these recent headlines really left me with a bad conscience. It has been weeks since I've called my grandparents the last time, and you do feel like a terrible person when it takes a news article to remind you of that. Before you pick up the phone because you feel the same way, take a couple of minutes and make sure you understand why loneliness is a serious issue for all of us: The problem of loneliness is especially present during Christmas time. Dr. Ishani Kar-Purkayastha wrote about Doris, an 82-year old completely healthy lady in 2010. Doris was about to be sent back home from the hospital two days before Christmas. She pretended to be sick in the hope to be able to stay longer. Doris stands for so many lonely elderly people that struggle to deal with their situation, not only during the Christmas celebrations.
It’s often multiple factors like restricted mobility and age-related diseases that lead to the person being lonely. There is furthermore an endless number of articles and research that proofs that loneliness is one of the biggest problems when it comes to Alzheimer's or any form of dementia. It’s not only the older generations that suffer from that problem, though. Take a young person who spends most of his or her time in a job, giving everything for their career. They often come back to an empty and lonely home when the work is done. Also, people who spend their day with hours and hours on social media and writing endless blogposts, without having spoken to anyone all day, are a good example. There are surveys that show that 46% of all singles are lonely at Christmas. It is still very important to differentiate between loneliness and social isolation. Loneliness can occur no matter how many people you have surrounding you. People who experience chronic loneliness are unable to build new friendships or relationships. This doesn’t only affect their emotional wellbeing but also their health. Lacking meaningful relationships can lead to depression. A Finnish study suggests that singles are 80% more at risk. Lonely people often feel tired and unmotivated, but still find it hard to get enough sleep. Other symptoms are nervousness and irritability. To make it even worse, a British study suggests that loneliness is worse than 15 cigarettes a day or obesity. Lonely people also released more cortisol, which causes inflammation and disease. There is nevertheless a way out of isolation. It is mainly the affected person’s own responsibility to take action to rebuild social networks. They must tackle the issue head on. Sounds easier said than done, right? Here are some tips, if you feel lonely once in a while:
Try to find people with similar interests. (Sports, art or a book club. Whatever feels right)
There are many support lines and organizations that want to help and are ready to listen. (AgeUk for example) Sometimes you might need help to get out of that situation, but to get it you have to ask for it!
Don't wait for someone to phone (or write/email) you! You can contact them too! And if they seem too busy, it doesn't mean they are rejecting you. Try another time!
There a many support groups in your area with people who are going through the same as you! Meet up!
You might have some old friends you are not in contact with for various reasons. Try to revive these friendships!
These are only a few suggestions! If you are not lonely, but are worried that your parents, grandparents or friends might be: How about you pick up the phone and call them NOW. Yes, RIGHT NOW. Stop the excuses. Just do it! (And after you've made that call-) Comment and discuss below if you feel like we’ve missed something! The MindMate Team wishes you a wonderful and happy week!