Loneliness – A Modern Epidemic?
According to the office of National Statistics, 5% of adults (that’s one in twenty) feel lonely “often” or “always”. Three profiles of people at particular risk from loneliness were identified:
- Widowed older homeowners living alone with long-term health conditions
- Unmarried, middle-agers with long-term health conditions.
- Younger renters with little trust and sense of belonging to their area.
Health conditions seem to play a massive part in the likelihood of someone reporting being lonely and in response the Prime Minister has announced a strategy for overcoming it’s effects.
In fact, research by Sense has shown that 50% of disabled people feel lonely every day.
Loneliness is as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and this is why there is so much emphasis on combating the loneliness epidemic.
The research suggests that social networks contribute to wellness and improving health when you do get ill. Of course there is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. We can be alone and feel quite happy in our own company, or on the other hand we can also be in a crowded room and feel lonely. It is meaningful social interactions that help us feel more connected to those around us.
Why are we more lonely?
More people are living in single households than ever before, which explains part of the issue. We also live further away from our families than ever before. More people are travelling and settling in different cities and even countries. Psychology Today suggests that the internet pays a large part in our feeling more lonely than ever before, and they also suggest that if we feel lonely we give off signals of hostility and we become less trusting. This compounds the loneliness and people become even more isolated.
Ironically, the internet can make us feel less connected as we turn to it to help alleviate loneliness instead of meeting up with our friends and family in real life.
What can we do about it?
You may not feel lonely or isolated and if you don’t you’re really lucky. You can support others to feel more connected with small actions such as smiling at people in the street and saying hello. Maybe start a conversation at the bus stop, with your neighbours or with your relatives. This is clearly going to be easier if you live in the North East as opposed to in the South of the UK!
If you feel lonely yourself you might feel many emotions around this including worthlessness, shame, depression and maybe even suicidal. Please know that you are not alone and people can feel isolated or lonely at many times in their lives. I myself felt socially isolated as a teenage parent as all my friends were at work and university and I didn’t have much in common with other mothers as they were older than me. Feeling lonely is not your fault – it isn’t a sign of you being unworthy, its more a sign that our society is failing its citizens. Please reach out to someone. If you feel able to, join a group or club to meet others.
If you feel isolated, Cygnet is running a group for people with health conditions and disabilities – whether you feel lonely or not, so please contact us to find out more. I’d love to hear from you!