Loneliness- A Public Health Risk

darknessEveryone has experienced feelings of loneliness at some point in their life. It is normal and offers time for some personal reflection, but it can also pose a real health problem, if it goes on for too long.

Studies are showing that loneliness is on the rise and that it makes us sick, literally. It makes complete sense when you think about the common use of social media surpassing face-to-face interaction with friends, the long work hours, work travel, time spent playing video games, moving away from family.

More recently, researchers concluded social isolation and loneliness may have even more, far reaching health consequences, such as higher blood pressure and higher risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, dementia, depression and lower survival rates for breast cancer patients. Other recent research reveals the brain-related changes associated with feelings of loneliness start to take place after as little as 24 hours of isolation. That’s not all, secondary effects include higher levels of inflammation, reduced immune function and poor sleep. Then there are health damaging behaviors resulting from those feelings, including alcohol and drug abuse and eating disorders.

If you are suffering from loneliness, you are not alone, pardon my pun. Here are some ideas that can help, after all, you owe it to your health:

  1. Volunteer
  2. Adopt a pet
  3. Join a club
  4. Shop local stores, coffee shops, etc.
  5. Limit use of social media
  6. Learn a new skill

Sometimes it helps to talk to an impartial, third person about issues going on in your life. In this case, it would be extremely beneficial to speak to a trained professional about your struggles. There are many excellent counselors that will be able to help and there is no shame in that. Just don’t go it alone!

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