Loneliness is a terrible thing. Feeling lonely is an emotion that stems from a state of isolation — a feeling that one is not just alone, but also unloved and ignored. Not surprisingly, loneliness and isolation has a serious detrimental effect on one’s mental and physical health.
Today, despite the ability to instantly communicate with other people all over the world, more people report that they feel lonely and alone in the world. This nagging feeling that no one cares can lead to depression and this of course, can negatively impact one’s physical health as well.
Loneliness can tank your mood, but can it affect your health, too?
All signs point to yes.
It turns out that feeling lonely can do more than make you sad: It can predict the way your body will respond to and bounce back from various health challenges. Lonely people are more likely to get sick, and researchers want to know why.
Three of them recently spoke about the current state of loneliness research and how scientists are responding. You can listen to their discussion on Aspen Ideas to Go, the podcast of the Aspen Ideas Festival, or watch the discussion online.
The 40-minute conversation covers such topics as what loneliness seems to do in the body — including increased inflammation and neurological and genetic changes — and how health-care providers are reacting.
For years, researchers have linked loneliness to poor health. People who say that they’re lonely are more likely to have dementia and inflammation, and to die prematurely. And in research presented to the American Psychological Association this summer, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor at Brigham Young University who participated on the Aspen panel, posited that loneliness is a bigger public health risk than obesity. – , The Washington Post
The holiday’s are a particularly difficult time for lonely people because their feelings of being isolated and unloved are heightened. When we know someone who is alone, especially this time of year, we should make the effort to reach out to them — let them know that they’re being thought of and that they matter. Invite them to lunch or dinner, stop by and spend some time with them — anything, even a short note, to let them know that they are in fact, not alone in this world.
Loneliness is an awful feeling that can cause a great deal of damage to the mind and body. If you’re able to, please consider helping a lonely person as often as you can — the smallest of gestures can make all the difference in the world to that person. When we give of ourselves to help the most vulnerable among us, its an incredible generator of positivity — showing love and compassion generates more love, and the circle of healing grows stronger and stronger.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” – Jesus Christ
“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.” – George Sand