Loneliness awareness week in 2022 will be hosted from the 13th to the 17th of June.
The week highlights the importance of awareness and acceptance of loneliness, and how we can help ourselves and others.
Loneliness is an emotional response, one many of us feel far too often.
It is a response to perceived isolation; it’s a kind of social pain that motivates us to seek out the social connection after we are feeling a deficit of connection and intimacy.
However, loneliness isn’t just defined as being alone.
You may be surrounded by people and events, but still feel lonely – particularly if you feel as though people don’t understand you, don’t want you there or don’t care for you.
You may feel lonely in a crowd of people, and peaceful when alone, so it becomes difficult to actually define loneliness.
Being or feeling lonely is not classed as a mental health condition, but the two are strongly intertwined.
Having mental health issues can increase your risk of feeling lonely and feeling lonely can increase your chance of bad mental health.
Richardson, Elliott, and Roberts conducted a study regarding the relationship between loneliness and mental health in students.
For their study, they examined 454 University undergraduate students, all completing measures of both mental health and loneliness and 4 different times.
They found that it was more likely that loneliness increased mental health problems than the other way around.
The largest finding regarded eating disorders, concluding that loneliness presupposes a greater eating disorder risk.
In another study, Meltzer et al explored the specific relationship between mental disorders and loneliness.
Their aim was to quantify the association between social participation and perceived support.
7,461 adults were selected randomly interviewed across England.
Mental disorders were assessed using a ‘clinical interview schedule’, and loneliness statistics were derived from a questionnaire on social functioning.
They defined loneliness as an unwelcomed feeling; a lack or loss of companionship where a discrepancy is obvious between reality and desires.
This is linked to feeling removed and disassociated from surroundings and people.
Loneliness has a direct correlation with suicide and depression, premeditated by:
Loneliness can be a serious risk factor for mental health such as anxiety and depression, whereby people isolate themselves to reduce their stress.
If you struggle with depression, it’s stated you are 11X more likely to feel isolated and lonely, where even human interaction seems to have minimal effect.
They linked loneliness with:
Women were found to feel lonelier on average, specifically those who were single, divorced, widowed, economically unstable, or in debt.
Loneliness was most common in those with depression but was associated with all mental disorders, such as phobias and OCD.
Loneliness is prevalent among disabled people and those in rural areas.
Low levels of social support and activity involvement are associated with a higher rate of mental disorders.
1 in 5 adults in England reported feeling lonely within 2 weeks prior to the interview
The largest impact seemed to be partners, rather than variables such as being childless.
COVID-19 has had dramatic repercussions on everyone’s lives, from losing jobs and loved ones to staying isolated away from people for 2 years.
Medical professionals have warned the risk of quarantine and isolation will create a ‘second pandemic’, one of bad mental health and suicide.
A national survey reported that over 34% of those who were isolated during COVID had experienced at least one of the following mental health issues:
These have been created by feelings of loneliness in isolation, leaving many people with dramatically different lives, possible relapses, and negative habits.
This was reinforced by many studies, stating those with pre-existing mental health disorders were at higher risk of suicide and worse mental health following isolation.
The main links between covid and mental health are:
Loneliness can leave us battling demons we thought were long gone; these can be eating disorders, alcohol problems, bad mental health and bad habits.
You must remember everyone is experiencing the repercussions: you cannot expect yourself to emerge from isolation untouched.
If you are feeling lonely, or affected by loneliness in some way, keep reading for some tips to help combat it.
There is a multitude of charitable campaigns that are raising awareness of loneliness, such as the ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’.
The aim of representation is to alter the stigma created around loneliness and its associated problems such as mental health.
With intervention, this is possible.
We must make it obvious how many of us actually suffer from loneliness, rather than masquerading ourselves as the ideal candidate for society.
Initiatives then provide the way to do this; providing promising solutions and bringing communities closer.
According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, over half a million older people can go almost a week without seeing or speaking to anyone.
This number is set to increase to over 2 million by 2025 if things don’t change.
Here are a few tips to help you if you are feeling lonely:
New Hobbies: These may be books, gardening, board games, or a previous hobby you have since abandoned.
These help you rekindle your love for activities, a love you may have lost through feeling lonely.
Just make sure this new hobby is not something detrimental to your physical or mental health, such as drinking or smoking.
Sports: This could be playing football in your garden, running, or joining group sports teams.
With the right clubs and societies, you are never too old nor too disabled to play.
Sports have been proven to aid mental health and fight negative emotions, helping to address some of the root causes of loneliness.
Pets: Pets provide solid companionship.
They are affectionate and loyal, reducing your feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Touch is one key element that people refer to when they state that they are lonely, and this is solved through the owning of pets.
Even borrow a dog or pet-sit if you have to, as it has been proven that animals lower heart rates.
Friends and Groups: Try to make new and old connections, reach out to people you used to talk to.
Talking to people, whether you know them well or not, is deemed beneficial for mental health.
There could be an entire group of people in one room who all feel lonely, but if they don’t talk to one another, they would never know.
Volunteering: When people volunteer, they are volunteering for a cause they believe in, providing the same experiences as helping others and doing something new.
This brings with it a sense of euphoria, excitement and the benefits of altruism.
This can decrease loneliness and is said to increase life satisfaction, a feeling of gratitude that you have used your privilege to help someone out of pure compassion.
There is plenty of support available, yet many struggle to reach out after developing mental health problems.
However, you can find support online or through local services.
There are people with similar interests, struggles and life goals as you, and they are only a few clicks away.
The internet is also a good way to strengthen the existing relationships you have.
Technological access has given us a way to stay connected, even if we are elsewhere.
Try to call friends and family more often, and develop the relationships you have.
If this is not an option, there are support phone lines and discussion groups that you can chat to, free of charge.
Talking to strangers has been proven to increase the likelihood of opening up about how you actually feel, without worrying about the repercussions.
Be kind to yourself and practice self-care.
Life over the past few years has not been easy, and it is more common than you think to feel lonely.
Reach out and start getting help now.