What is loneliness?
Loneliness is an emotional state that can occur in many different situations. In fact, some people will report that they feel lonely even if they have frequent contact with other people. A state of loneliness might come about, for example, because someone has chosen to shut themselves away or because others shun them in social situations. Many older people report loneliness is an issue for them as they get out and about from their home less often, especially if they also live alone. The emotional state of being lonely will often come about because people don't feel they are truly connecting with others, maybe only making superficial contact. Failing to communicate effectively is another sign that loneliness is at play.
What are the mental health effects of loneliness?
One of the big factors in depression is a sense of loneliness. In fact, being lonely can lead you to develop depressive thoughts, too. What's more of a problem is that depressed people are often shunned by others which makes the feeling of loneliness worse. In short, it is a vicious cycle. Other mental health issues associated with being lonely are poor sleep patterns, a sense of crisis or anguish and a willingness to indulge in self-destructive behaviour. It is not always the case, but lonely people will often turn to alcohol or drug abuse as a means of temporarily lifting their spirits – something that also leads to a downward spiral of mental well-being.
Can loneliness have an impact on physical health?
Although research is ongoing in this field, many people think that being lonely can lead to poor physical health outcomes. Some scientists have shown that certain blood chemicals are more abundant in lonely people, something that could lead to an increased likelihood of contracting heart disease, for example.
How can you prevent loneliness?
Lots of people who are feeling lonely can alleviate their symptoms by joining a club or a group. It does not matter what the activity might be. Simply by mixing with others on a regular basis will lower the sense of loneliness anyone might feel. Pets and even robots that interact with you can help to deal with this emotional state, too.