loneliness can have a drastic effect on health
Loneliness is a negative feeling that arises when someone’s social needs are unmet by their current social relationships. So people can feel alone, even if they’re surrounded by others, if they’re not getting the right kind of company and support. While many think of loneliness as a social issue, it also affects our health.
A person who perceives themselves as having less access to relationships, also finds physical and mental tasks more difficult. People with less access to others can’t rely on group safety or “share the load” of life’s challenges. This can result in stress.
Researchers found hand-holding with a spouse (as opposed to a stranger) can significantly reduce stress during difficult tasks. And these effects were even larger with couples that reported the highest quality relationship.
Another Research from Brigham Young University published earlier this year suggests that the health risk associated with loneliness or social isolation is “comparable to well-established risk factors” such as obesity, substance abuse, injury and violence, and environmental quality. “In light of mounting evidence that social isolation and loneliness are increasing in society, it seems prudent to add social isolation and loneliness to lists of public health concerns,” according to the study authors.
These emotional and psychological effects translate into physiological effects. Loneliness negatively impacts brain processes, ability to handle cognitive tasks, control of inflammation in the body, ability to regulate stress, and severity of mental health symptoms, just to name a few.
How loneliness can be reduced
Reducing loneliness has obvious health benefits. But the solution isn’t as simple as connecting lonely people with other people; rather, it involves the establishment of meaningful connections. First, recognize the loneliness. Loneliness is often equated with being a loser. People tend to deny or conceal their loneliness, in which case it’s likely to get worse.
Second, understand what the loneliness is doing to your mind and body. Unless you understand the psychological complexities of loneliness, you won’t understand what you’re doing.
Third, respond. The idea is to reconnect safely. Social media can help although it isn’t a substitute for face-to-face contact, but “it’s better than nothing.