We’ve all heard about the risk factors of smoking on our health, the implications of obesity and what it takes to lead a healthy physical lifestyle, time and time again - but what often isn't spoken about are the effects ofsocial isolation and loneliness on our family, our friends, our colleagues, our communities and ourselves.
In fact, “The effect of loneliness and isolation on mortality (your life-span) is comparable to the impact of well-known risk factors such as obesity, and has a similar influence as cigarette smoking” (1) (Holt-Lunstad, 2010). When directly asked how lonely they felt;
50.5% of Australians reported they felt lonely for at least a day in the previous week; 27.6% felt lonely for three or more days. (2)
One in four (25.5%) do not feel they have a lot in common with the people around them,” the Australian Loneliness Report found (2). We’ve all felt lonely at one point of time or another, but what we are witnessing in the world right now is a lot more than that.
There are direct correlations being found between someone's social connectedness and the longevity of their health.
You see when someone is deprived of meaningful social interaction it actually impacts our blood pressure, chances of coronary heart disease and stroke, cognitive function, mental health and so much more (3).
“This issue is so pervasive, and its effects are so damaging, that experts warn of a"loneliness epidemic" that could be our nextpublic health crisis” (4).
Across the world right now there is an emphasis more than ever on what we can do as a global community to face this uprising challenge, this problem is not specific only to Australia. Just last year (2018)Britain appointed its first Minister for Loneliness, whileOver 46% of people in the USA in 2018 reported feeling lonely sometimes or always and 47% of people reported feeling left out or sometimes or always (Cigna 2018).
The whole answer isn't a simple one, but it is made up of a whole heap of simple things we can start doing TODAY.
But what are we meant to do about it?
These are our top 3 recommendations;
Join a club or a group of people who have similar interests to you! It sounds like a no brainer, but truly, it helps more than you can imagine. Doing things with other people in person is the biggest gift you can give to yourself and others.
- Go after work, or on the weekend or before work. There are so many options around like; Choir, Dancing groups/classes, eating clubs (yes, you read that right), bowling, cooking, hiking, ice-skating, arts and crafts, gaming, trivia, board game evenings and SO much more. One of my favorite sites to help me find fun things to do with other humans is meetup.com
- And yes, just like all things in life sometimes you need to go to a few different events before you find ‘your people’. But don’t give up, you will find where you fit eventually.
Reach Out! - Initiate conversations in person- Talk to the people around you. It doesn't have to be something groundbreaking, it can be the weather, your lunch, plans for the holidays - you never know the person on the bus beside you might need this more than you know. "Just chatting makes us happier and healthier," says Susan Pinker, author of The Village Effect. "We can feel much better after just 30 seconds of talking to someone in person, whereas we don't get that benefit from an online interaction" (5).
Look for the good in every person you meet; What you focus on, grows. And yes, sometimes people suck… but when we focus on the positive aspects of the people around us, that’s exactly what we find. The more you are able to forgive, the faster you are able to move forward and create a life that is inherently more connected (5).