New York Times, 25th March 2009 quoted “loneliness leads to poorer physical and mental health”. Similarly, BBC news on January 31st, 2011 pronounced loneliness as a “hidden killer” of the elderly.
While loneliness is a universal human emotion, different people define loneliness in different ways. Loneliness is actually a state of mind. It is both complex and unique to every individual. Loneliness can be normal and is an indicator of underlying disease only when feelings become excessive, all-consuming, and interfere with daily living.
Effects of Loneliness
Loneliness makes a person feel sad, empty, and unwanted. People who are lonely often crave human contact, but their state of mind makes it more difficult to form connections with other people. Loneliness is not always about being alone. Instead, if you feel alone and isolated, then that is how loneliness plays into your state of mind. Loneliness, in itself, is like a disease. It affects your mental and physical health. A person suffering from loneliness has a lack of self-care, follows poor diet and hygiene, and lacks the habit of exercise. According to a study, those adults who feel lonely or isolated choose more unhealthy food options and tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. The susceptibility to heart disease is heightened in lonely people. According to a Harvard study conducted in 2012, middle-aged adults who live alone have a 24% higher chance of dying from heart disease than those who do not.
Health Risks Associated With Loneliness
Loneliness has a wide range of negative effects on both physical and mental health. They include:
• Depression and suicide
• Alzheimer’s disease progression
• Poor decision-making
• Alcoholism and drug use
• Antisocial behavior
• Cardiovascular disease and stroke
• Increased stress levels
• Decreased memory and learning
• Altered brain function
• Less exercising activities
• Less efficient sleep
• Daytime fatigue
• Predisposes premature aging
• Disrupts the regulation of cellular processes deep within the body
Here Are Some Ways To Fight Loneliness:
• Have a positive outlook on life.
Lonely people often suffer from an inferiority complex and have a negative outlook on life. They fear rejection. So instead, focus on positive thoughts and attitudes in your social relationships.
• Make friends.
Having just three or four close friends is enough to ward off loneliness and reduce the negative health consequences associated with this state of mind.
• Join community services or any other activity that you enjoy.
These situations give us great opportunities to meet people and cultivate new friendships and social interactions.
• Recognize loneliness as a sign of change.
Understand the effects of loneliness on your life. There are physical and mental repercussions for loneliness. When you recognize loneliness, it becomes easier for you to overcome it.
• Focus on developing quality relationships.
Seek people who share similar attitudes, interests, and values with you. Try to socialize and interact with people.