The loneliness epidemic
Thursday, January 18, 2024
‘Tis the winter season, which has a reputation for sadness given the shorter, darker days. It’s also after the holidays when post-holiday funks are legendary.
How do you know if you’re feeling alone or lonely? According to researchers, there’s a big difference.
In 2020, health consulting firm Cigna conducted an online survey of adults in the United States to explore the impact of loneliness. They found that 61% of Americans reported loneliness in 2019, up from 54% in 2018.
What did they want to know?
The researchers first wanted to determine if people were alone or lonely. They learned that:
Feeling alone occurs after situational variables, such as moving to a new location, losing a family member or friend and divorce. Even civic or religious holidays and events that bring people together, like a concert or the World Series, can cause people to feel disconnected when they are over.
The feelings lasted for a short time.
The feelings lessened as seasons and situations changed.
People who said they were lonely shared the following:
They reported little to no social support and infrequent meaningful social interactions.
They did not feel good about their relationships.
Their physical and mental health tended to be poor.
They lacked balance in their daily activities – doing too much or too little of anything (for example, sleep or work).
Figuring out if you are alone or lonely allows you to seek sources of support or otherwise make changes. Even if it does not feel comfortable, reach out.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists many health conditions made worse by ongoing loneliness, including heart disease, depression, cognitive decline and weakened immune systems.
Talk to your Primary Care Physician, who may have helpful resources.
You can also:
Find groups that share your interests.
Volunteer. (See the next paragraph for groups in need.)
Contact friends and family members regularly.
Eat a healthy diet and spend time in nature.
Young adults, mothers with young children, members of the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants and older people are all at increased risk for loneliness. The people in these groups need you and would most likely welcome you with open arms.
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Genesis HealthCare System’s Health and Wellness content conveniently provides accurate and helpful information. Your health history and current health may impact suggestions provided through our Health and Wellness content. Although we hope this information is helpful, it is not a substitute for your doctor's medical advice. Before making any significant changes, please consult your doctor.