The Physical Impact of Loneliness
Long term impact of loneliness can severely affect your health. Learn more…
Research suggests that there is a direct biological link between being lonely and ill health. These negative impacts inside the human body may be stopped with social contact.
They have found that loneliness is tied to hardening of the arteries (leading to high blood pressure), inflammation and even problems with memory and learning. In a study at UCLA, they observed that certain genes were being expressed differently in the immune systems of lonely people. They discovered that several keys genes involved in antiviral and antibody production were underexpressed. In other words, the human body was less able to fight off viral threats making people that are socially isolated more vulnerable to cancers, infections, heart disease and other illnesses. In fact, loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%.
Loneliness can also significantly reduce the quality of sleep. Lonely people tend to wake up more frequently during the night and actually spend less time in bed.
LONELINESS AND MENTAL HEALTH
Being lonely can make a person hyper-sensitive to negative social behaviours causing them to fall even further into loneliness. In other words, being alone makes one feel unsafe. The reason for this can be traced back to early human evolution when people needed to band together in order to stay alive. They all needed to work with each other to hunt, gather food and fight off enemies. Those that tended to stray away from the group risked physical harm. Lonely individuals are more prone to depression and are at a greater risk of cognitive decline. One study concluded that lonely people have a 64% increased chance of developing dementia. Loneliness and low social interaction are predictive of suicide in older age (O’Connell et al, 2004)
TIPS TO HELP ALLEVIATE LONELINESS
• Reaching out to others – It’s important to look to family and friends for support instead of withdrawing into yourself.
• Focus on the feelings of others – By helping other people, you shift the focus from yourself to other people.
• Find like-minded people – Find people who share your interests and hobbies. Join a group and attempt to cultivate new friendships.
• Attend gatherings – Make a point of attending meetings and gatherings. It will help to get you engaged in social situations.
• Understand that loneliness is just a feeling – Attempt to isolate what has triggered the feeling of loneliness. Is it the memory over the loss of a loved one? Understand that loneliness is not a fact but rather just a feeling that can be changed.
• Form a plan to fight loneliness – Make sure you engage in activities or events on a daily basis that involve some sort of social interaction. Plan a coffee date with a friend or visit a relative.
In one analysis they determine two of the best ways to help loneliness is to train people to see the world in a more positive light and to bring people together for a good time. If you feel you could use some help to see the world in a more positive way, there are experts that can help you. Here are couple of places to start:
Researching the Effects of Social Isolation