“Loneliness affects people of all ages.”


Sep 12, 2023

Although people are becoming increasingly connected through social media and other sources, it is a great irony that many people still feel lonely.

This loneliness can have far-reaching implications for a person’s health and well-being.

Loneliness as a public health issue has also intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, loneliness continues to be a pressing problem. It is crucial to know how to recognize loneliness and how to help patients overcome feelings of loneliness.
Loneliness affects people of all ages.

“Loneliness is essentially a feeling of discomfort or distress when someone feels there is a gap between the connection they desire and the connection they actually have,” said Dr. Bell Washington, adding that “you can be in a crowd of people, you can know them all, and still feel lonely.”

“So, you may have many shallow social connections, but what you really want is something deeper – someone who will know you inside out,” she said. “It’s really based on the perception of the gap between the relationship you desire and the relationship you have with others.”

“Loneliness was already an epidemic in itself, but the global COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant increase in loneliness in recent years,” said Dr. Bell Washington, who attended a course during the last year of her MPH program at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Medicine where she learned about the serious complications of loneliness. Loneliness is a public health issue that affects people of all ages.

Studies show that loneliness is not only a significant predictor of functional decline and premature death, similar to or greater than the risk of obesity, but loneliness in adolescence is associated with sleep disturbances, symptoms of depression, and overall poorer health. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, loneliness is a public health issue that existed before but intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “have found that 63% of young adults also suffer from significant symptoms of anxiety or depression,” said Dr. Bell Washington. “This means we have a generation of young people craving deeper connections who often lack the skills or opportunities to achieve it.”

“Someone’s twenties are filled with countless social expectations, including separating from the nuclear family, finding a partner, developing a career, and finding a ‘tribe’,” she said. “For many, this time is complicated by unrealistic lives on social media that are often unattainable. This only exacerbates the loneliness young adults feel.”

“We get these dopamine rushes when someone likes our status,” Dr. Clark said, referring to social media posts. Conversely, many feel “sad or upset when they don’t get a certain number of likes or don’t have more than a million followers on their social media accounts.”

Social media influences loneliness.

“And if you’re having an identity crisis – and if you allow social media to dictate who you are – that can create a certain loneliness,” he added. “We need to be mindful of the psychiatric consequences of loneliness. This includes depression and anxiety.”

Take Loneliness Seriously.

“Loneliness is something that should be taken seriously,” said Dr. Bell Washington. Loneliness “can have serious mental and physical complications that worsen if neglected. ” She added that “social isolation and loneliness lead to a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, memory problems, and even death.”

“It’s not a sign of weakness. You don’t have to be a superhero. You don’t have to be strong all the time, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting or seeking connections,” she said. “The same things we needed as children, we need as adults. So, of course, you need sleep, healthy food, and physical activity, but you also need connection.”

“That connection looks different for different people. For some, it may be a connection to a higher power, family, or friends,” Dr. Bell Washington said. “I advise all patients to take care of themselves and seek help if they need it.”

Turn to Your Doctor for Help.

“If you notice that you’re feeling sad or anxious for several days, that would be a sign that you probably should reach out to someone,” Dr. Bell Washington said. “Besides confiding in a family friend, I would recommend reaching out to your primary care physician.”

What if there’s something in our daily lives that can change our overall health and well-being?

Something that can reduce the risk of developing and worsening:

Heart disease, Anxiety, High blood pressure, Dementia, Depression, Diabetes.

There is! It’s something we should all care for and nurture like a flower.

It can create healthier, more resilient communities.

That something is called social connection.

Social connection is key to our health and well-being.*

Did you know that a lack of connection can increase the risk of premature death to levels comparable to daily smoking?

People are wired for social connections, but over time, we have become increasingly isolated.

Social connection is as important for our long-term survival as food and water. But today, loneliness is more widespread than other major health problems in the United States. Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation is a major public health concern.

Social connection reduces the risk of premature death. It can predict better physical and mental health outcomes and alleviate stress. This connection can even impact educational and economic achievements.

Social connection is essential for community health and success.

Socially connected communities experience better population health. They are better prepared for—and more resilient in the face of—disaster situations. They also enjoy greater economic prosperity and reduced levels of crime and violence.

Fostering social connection requires each of us to commit to our relationships and communities. Our actions today can create sustainable changes in society and bring better health to everyone. Additionally, communities, organizations, and governments can take steps to promote social connection.
Source from Harvard

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