These days loneliness seems to be an epidemic.
With the increased use of Social Media, we tend to be spending more time behind screens and less time interacting face to face with humans. This can create social anxiety and extreme isolation and distance between people, even loved ones. We may seem to think that we are more social and connected than in past times, although the connections are often lacking quality and depth.
Anyone can feel lonely at any time, although it is more common within older people.
What causes Loneliness
The feeling of loneliness can occur due to a number of things: isolation, living alone, disability & inability to do things, living in rural areas, social anxiety, lack of connection to Culture & Community, family fall outs, loved ones passing, relationship break ups and more.
Although this can sometimes just be apart of the human experience, other times it can be extremely serious and detrimental to our mental health which can then also effect our physical health and overall well-being.
Black Dog Institute
According to Black Dog Institute: “Loneliness is that negative feeling that arises when our social needs are unmet by the quantity and quality of our current social relationships. As social beings, we rely on safe, secure social surroundings to survive and thrive. When we begin to feel lonely we experience heightened feelings of vulnerability, which can take a toll on both our bodies and our minds.
Loneliness has become such a significant issue in society that The Australian Government has invested $46.1 million to combat the issue. http://www.medianet.com.au/releases/160083/
According to Psychology Today:
“Not surprisingly, feelings of isolation can have a serious detrimental effect on one’s mental and physical health. Loneliness can be a risk factor for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, among other critical diseases. Lonely people are also twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
At the root, isolation compromises immunity, increases the production of stress hormones, and is harmful to sleep. All of this feeds chronic inflammation, which lowers immunity to the degree that lonely people even suffer more from the common cold. Loneliness can be a chronic stress condition that ages the body and causes damage to overall well-being.”
What is loneliness?
- Not feeling understood
- Not having anyone to share your experiences with
- Not feeling connected to others
What happens when you feel lonely?
- You feel sad, upset, worried, isolated, that nobody cares
- The need to escape
- Feeling abandoned
How many people are lonely?
According to the Australia Institute of Health & Welfare:
Most Australians will experience loneliness at some point in their lives (Relationships Australia 2018). One in 3 Australians reported an episode of loneliness between 2001 and 2009, with 40% of these people experiencing more than 1 episode, according to a study of loneliness using data from the longitudinal Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey (Baker 2012).
1 in 10 (9.5%, or around 1.8 million based on 2016 population) Australians aged 15 and over report lacking social support (Relationships Australia 2018)
about 1 in 4 report they are currently experiencing an episode of loneliness (Australian Psychological Society 2018)
1 in 2 (51%) report they feel lonely for at least 1 day each week (Australian Psychological Society 2018).
Most incidents of loneliness will last for 1 year or less, however, if loneliness lasts longer than this it is likely to last for 3 or more years (Baker 2012).
Overcoming Loneliness – Tips
- Understand Loneliness! Accept it, acknowledge it, understand it and act on it!
- Remember that fears are NOT facts
- Hang out with people with similar interests to you
- Get out and about! Exercise is good for your health and you will be surprised who you meet in the process. Join a walking group, Yoga group of your local gym for some human interaction!
- Get a pet! Even better – join a dog walking group
- Volunteer – giving back to those in need is not only fulfilling for yourself and others, but also a great way to meet others.
- Love and accept yourself as you are! Know that you are worthy of love and support and there are people out there that would be lucky to have you as a friend. If you work on self belief and knowing you deserve these things, everything will start to shift.
- Online groups – there are plenty of chat rooms, groups and activity based websites that can connect you to other people that are feeling just like you. Checkout our guide on making new friends online, you never know how much a cyber buddy could truly support you!
- Seek treatment. Book in to see a counsellor or psychologist/psychiatrist. They will be able to help you tackle the feelings of loneliness and give you some tools, tips and tricks to conquer the isolation and help you build the confidence to get out there and meet others! There are also online anonymous support groups that can help you to feel better if you don’t feel comfortable talking face to face just yet. eg. https://forums.au.reachout.com/
- Deal with the stress, anxiety, lack of self confidence by putting yourself out there
- Join a sporting club
- Smile at strangers
- Get out of the house!