Lonely people live shorter less healthy lives
There are two kinds of loneliness: social and emotional. Social loneliness is distinguished by the lack of satisfaction in the number of social relationships, and emotional loneliness is dissatisfaction with the quality of human relationships.
Everything points to the fact that emotional loneliness is a stage for worse psychological health.
Depending on the context we live in, we can long for loneliness to give us the pleasure of disconnecting from daily stress. There is nothing wrong with that. But we must look further to know when loneliness is a problem, one that can reduce the health of people.
Scientists have now delved into the depths of this feeling and discovered something surprising: when loneliness is classified into subtypes, the number of people who admit suffering from it doubles.
We are surrounded by loners. You only have to pay attention to the diner that, daily, eats without company; the tourists who go on vacation in complete solitude, or those who long for the queue of the supermarket to start a conversation.
Sometimes the loner is oneself, when an emotional state overflows that could be related to nostalgia, melancholy, homesickness, longing, helplessness, abandonment, feeling of failure and sadness in a more generic way.
But loneliness does not always have those dull colors, it’s not bad in itself. Eating without any company other than internal dialogue or reflecting alone in a foreign country does not have to be a negative situation.
Loners live less
A harmful feeling but also desired at certain times, sought or avoided, loneliness manifests itself in different ways, it is even a necessity for some minds, but how do we feel it?
Lots of people point out to loneliness as one of their five main fears but, being a subjective feeling, loners have different ways of living it. This
Our context, our life history, our traumatic experiences, what assessments we make of that loneliness, how it has developed, what kind of relationships we have, how we respond to these variables; all this determines how we live it and are indicators that facilitate, or not, clinical manifestations such as major depression and generalized anxiety disorder.
In any case, the study of social and emotional solitaires reveals that loneliness is a public health problem. Homes occupied by a single person are the fastest growing type of home in the world.
The demographic trend shows a downward birth rate.
Marriages continue to die out and the use of technology is almost inexorably affecting our ability to form “tribes” and really support communities. While looking at the data from studies is undeniable that loneliness is a risk factor for mental health, says psychotherapist Marc Ruiz.
This is not a new conclusion for scientists. A 2016 study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, measured the impact of social isolation, loneliness and mortality to know the consequences of being a loner.
Researchers analyzed a sample of almost 9,000 Finnish adults over 17 years, and concluded that they had strong evidence to claim that isolation from the environment was related to mortality.
The results imply that the risk of mortality exists along a continuum, which affects not only those who experience extreme social isolation, but also those who suffer mild to moderate isolation. And there are more and more people living alone.
In a meta-analysis conducted in 2015, scientists saw that social isolation is associated with an increased risk of early mortality, regardless of the gender and region of the world being studied.
An experiment conducted by the BBC revealed a shocking fact: people who feel lonely are younger than 65 years of age.
According to figures collected by the BBC, from 55,000 people, “40% of young people ages 16 to 24 said they often or very often felt lonely, compared to 27% of those over 75” .
In an article published on Harvard Business Review, American surgeon Vivek Murthy wrote that “loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in life similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes per day and even more than the one associated with obesity. “
What to do about loneliness?
According to experts, loneliness is perhaps one of the main challenges of our time. They point out to the way we interact in the XXI century as the trigger of this solitude. The increase of individualism, the fear of others and the highlights of differences are some of the reasons behind loneliness.
Experts propose, as one of several possible solutions, to promote more social intervention to generate support networks, since this is, perhaps, the factor that best explains the famous resilience or resistance to adversity or overcoming difficulties.
In this sense, there are already groups in small administrations and mayorships in some countries that work in this direction.
On the other hand, it is clear that there are no magical solutions, since they depend a lot on the particularity of each case, precisely because of the amount of variables that can interfere in feeling lonely.
Are we talking about an 18-year-old boy who suffers bullying and all his peers have turned away from him, or are we talking about an 80-year-old widow who only shared her life with a husband she loved deeply?
With these two examples it becomes clear how radically different cases are in which a person may suffer from loneliness.
These differences are decisive when it comes to tackling a case. Age is a determining factor., but not the only one or the most relevant. That being said, a general recommendation would be to take care of the quality of the relationships.
Instead of accumulating hollow friendships in social networks, let’s take care of the people around us.
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Luis Miranda is an award-winning journalist and the Founder and Editor of The Real Agenda News. His career spans over 20 years and almost every form of news media. He writes about environmentalism, geopolitics, globalisation, health, corporate control of government, immigration and banking cartels. Luis has worked as a news reporter, On-air personality for Live news programs, script writer, producer and co-producer on broadcast news.