BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|
We are human beings, social by nature. However, due to different circumstances, we experience loneliness, a situation that brings not only physical problems, but also mental ones, generating serious disturbances in those who experience it.
Stuewe-Portnoff defined loneliness as “the experience of isolation, disorientation or lost-ness within a dimensional domain of meaning  ”. Additionally, the sociologist Robert Weiss identified six social needs that, if unmet, contribute to feeling loneliness: social integration, nurturance, reassurance of worth, sense of reliable alliance, and guidance in stressful situations  . The National Library of Medicine gives us an interesting definition, “loneliness is not necessarily about being alone. Instead, “it is the perception of being alone and isolated that matters most” and is “a state of mind  ”.
Some causes of loneliness are the death of a close friend or a family member, physical isolation, such as living alone or moving away from family and friends, illness or disability, retirement, working alone  ; factors that include situational variables such as physical isolation, moving to a new location, and divorce, etc  .
Now, it is important that we clarify the difference between loneliness and solitude. According to Verywellmind  , “loneliness is marked by feelings of isolation despite wanting social connections. It is often perceived as an involuntary separation, rejection, or abandonment by other people.” On the other hand, “solitude is voluntary. People who enjoy spending time by themselves continue to maintain positive social relationships that they can return to when they crave connection. They still spend time with others, but these interactions are balanced with periods of time alone”.
According to Making Caring Common Project of Harvard University  , 36% of all Americans- including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children- feel “serious loneliness”. Not surprisingly, loneliness appears to have increased substantially since the outbreak of the global pandemic.
Additionally, in the article “The Loneliness Epidemic Persist: A Post-Pandemic Look at the State of Loneliness among U.S. Adults  ” it is mentioned that 75% of Hispanic adults and 68% of Black/African American adults are classified as lonely, at least 10 points higher than what is seen among the total adult population (58%). 79% of adults aged 18 to 24 report feeling lonely compared to 41% of seniors aged 66 and older. 57% of men and 59% of women reported being lonely. Loneliness levels were close to equal in 2018 as well, with 53% of men and 54% of women reporting feelings of loneliness.
Mind website  states “feeling lonely isn’t in itself a mental health problem, but the two are strongly linked. Having a mental health problem can increase your chance of feeling lonely. Or you may experience social phobia (also known as social anxiety) and find it difficult to engage in everyday activities involving other people, which could lead to a lack of meaningful social contact and cause feelings of loneliness”.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  , there are some health risk of loneliness:
- Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
- Social isolation was associated with about 50%-increased risk of dementia.
- Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and 32% increased risk of stroke.
- Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
- Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.
Then, how to cope with and prevent loneliness? Find hobbies you enjoy, volunteer for an organization you support, join support groups, routinely contacting family and friends, maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise regime  . Take it slow, make new connections, try peer support, try to open up, talking therapies, social care, be careful when comparing yourself to others and look after yourself  .
Remember that, as we mention from the beginning, we are social beings so, the invitation is to go out and meet people, talk, be honest with others, laugh, share a good time, eat with your family, share, share, share… This will bring multiple benefits to your emotional wellbeing. However, if you need help please contact the professionals of Neighbors’ Consejo, who will help you deal with your loneliness free of charge.