Loneliness & Its Effects on Health

May 21, 2020 2 min read 8 Comments

Roughly 20% of Americans lived with“deep threats of loneliness” before social distancingwas put in place, according to Vivek H. Murthy, MD, a former Surgeon General and author ofTogether: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.

Murthy traveled the US to talk with people about their health concerns (before COVID-19). He expected them to discuss the diseases and conditions plaguing Americans today—opioid addiction, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer—only to learn thatmany Americans were struggling from loneliness and its impact on their health. 

Loneliness is more than an emotional or mental health issue. It causes physiological changes that contribute to the release of stress hormones, which can cause inflammation. As such,it’s an independent health risk for heart disease, anxiety, dementia, and premature death. Murthy believes thatloneliness is also often at the root of chronic medical conditions, addiction, and even violence. 


Although feeling lonely is uncomfortable, however, it can be helpful.Loneliness is a signal—just like when your body tells you that you’re sleepy or hungry.Pay attention to its cues, instead of ignoring them or trying to tamp down this uncomfortable feeling.

Here are some positive ways to address loneliness:
  1. Understand the difference between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness speaks to social isolation. Solitude is about taking time to be by yourself. This allows for introspection and spiritual growth. 

  2. Find something, that you do on your own, that brings you joy, such as playing music, making art, exercising, writing, or even taking a bubble bath. Engage in this daily to help lower stress levels and to become more accustomed to solitude. 

  3. Review your photos to see the people you love and to relive the trips you have taken or the other things you’ve done. This can release feel-good hormones to combat the physiological changes caused by loneliness.  

  4. Use creative options to encourage more interaction with others. Your social life may look different right now, but you can still raise a toast over video chat to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Make a list of friends, colleagues, and family who you haven’t been in contact with recently and then reach out to one or two each week.

  5. Be of service to someone else. Ironically, one of the most powerful anecdotes to loneliness is to help someone else. Thinking about someone else’s concerns and problems gets you out of your head. And when you do something for someone who is less fortunate or in need, you are often filled with gratitude for your own life. 

If you experience “deep threats of loneliness,” know you are not alone. Literally! 


Take the time to reach out and connect with someone….a friend, family…..or a health professional.You are just one phone call away from a meaningful social connection

How have you dealt with loneliness?


8 Responses

Deborah
Deborah

May 24, 2020

After going through a stroke and then divorce, I realize that I am lonely according to this article. I was used to solitude and sought it out often. But like someone said, you can hug your dog but it’s not the same as another human being.

fancified.ca
fancified.ca

May 23, 2020

Especially helpful to me was contemplating the difference between loneliness and solitude. Society is finally recognizing the introvert’s natural tendencies as a positive.

linda goldberg
linda goldberg

May 23, 2020

This is wonderful for us all. most of us know the isolstion of lonliness, even without a Pandemic.
Thank you for reaching out to us all.
Be Healthy
Linda

Jennifer
Jennifer

May 23, 2020

As most of us I have been inside sine the first of March when I went to Duke to schedule radiation treatments for a brain tumor then that got canceled so I have been having a hard time SO I decided to make some art quilts and sent them out as surprises to those I know who also are feeling lonely as well as scared and much to my surprise others did the same thing without each of us knowing it so not only did I take pleasure in surprising friends I also got art work in the mail, it is wonderful to give.

Trish
Trish

May 23, 2020

These are definitely good tips. However nothing can take the place of being with someone in person, giving them a hug and kiss, etc. Looking at past photos can indeed bring up memories of happier times. This needs to be done with an upbeat frame of mind or the result could be a longing for those missing in our lives and the fun we had. It may be difficult to do this while in a lonely state of mind.

La Verne Johnston
La Verne Johnston

May 23, 2020

Life is full of joy. Jesus is my friend—-“closer than a brother”. My friends and acquaintances are a phone call away. Novels, jigsaw puzzles, neighborhood walks, greeting others who are walking early. Interacting with my family. Meal prep. and eating together, praying, reading Bible together. Short naps.

burgundygirl
burgundygirl

May 23, 2020

I have been painting Ladybug Rocks and handing them out to friends, family, mail carrier, etc….along with a poem to bring a smile to them.
They can put them in a flower pot, in the windowsill or car or their choosing for a bright spot in their life. :-)
The response has been a bright spot & smile for me!

Carol Clemons
Carol Clemons

May 23, 2020

There is also a loneliness that comes from living alone, after having lived with a partner, where you just want someone who is totally committed to being together, without having to talk or be engaged. It occurs to me, that although I desire to connect deeply, the simple act of hanging out without talking is also important. And so is physical affection. You can hug yourself or a pet, but it’s not the same as hugging a human being.

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