Loneliness has long been a concern for one’s mental health state, but new research is emerging on the potential detriment it can have on one’s physical health as well. We’ll explore effects and make suggestions for achieving connection, but first we must define what loneliness actually means.
What Is Loneliness?
Loneliness can be categorized as the state of being isolated or alone. However, we all need time to ourselves every now and then. Being alone is a healthy way of regenerating ourselves when life gets too overwhelming.
Just be careful that you are mixing this alone time with genuine human interaction. In fact, one doesn’t have to be alone to feel lonely. Perhaps one of the most damaging forms of loneliness is when you are surrounded by people but still don’t feel a sense of connection.
Risks to Health
Loneliness is making headlines thanks to a recent study published by Brigham Young University researchers. The study showed that those who categorized themselves as being lonely were at an increased risk of death, 27 percent higher than the average person.
Social isolation or living alone increased this risk even further, by up to 32 percent.
How exactly loneliness increases the risk of death requires a multi-faceted look. Much of the damage comes from a lack of connection above all else. Affectionate gestures such as holding a loved one’s hand is known to reduce blood pressure and pain. Those living without social connection won’t have these positive contributions to their health.
A 2013 study showed that socially-isolated women who had breast cancer experienced heightened breast cancer symptoms and reported lower overall well-being.
The best way to prevent the potential damaging effects that loneliness can cause is to cultivate connections that matter. Being surrounded by people is not enough to stave off feelings of loneliness;
one must feel connected on a deeper level to achieve maximum positive effects.
Common interests are a great way to bond people. Seek out experiences and events that will connect you to others who share similar interests and/or attitudes. Engage with your co-workers through occasional staff lunches together. Reach out to family and friends with whom you have lost touch.