What is Loneliness and more to the point WHY do we have Loneliness if there are over 7.7(1) billion of us?
How do we end up with feeling alone and lonely?
What is the dictionary telling us about Loneliness?
English Oxford Living Dictionaries
Sadness because one has no friends or company
The fact of being without companions; solitariness (2)
Collins English Dictionary
Loneliness is the unhappiness that is felt by someone because they do not have any friends or do not have anyone to talk to. (3)
So what is this spelling out to us if we join the dots?
We are without friendships or the company of other people and that causes sadness.
The meaning of Solitary is saying we are existing alone (4)
We feel unhappy because we do not have anyone to talk to
The above is what we are told Loneliness is
Is there more here to consider about Loneliness?
Should we be asking a very pertinent question –
Do we feel lonely because something is missing in our life?
Could it be that simple?
Loneliness is a Serious Public Health Problem
“Young people are increasingly feeling disconnected…”
Alex Smith – founder, the Cares Family
Charity dedicated to curbing loneliness (5)
Doctors and policymakers in the rich world are increasingly worried about Loneliness
Campaigns to reduce Loneliness have been launched in
Britain | Denmark | Australia
Loneliness – an Epidemic in our Interconnected Age
Social isolation is similar to physical indicators like Obesity in being a risk factor for disease and early deaths.
By some accounts it plagues young people even more than the elderly (6)
Government surveyed hikikomori “people who shut themselves in their homes”
2018 – Theresa May, Prime Minister appointed a minister for Loneliness
Researchers define Loneliness as perceived social isolation – a feeling of not having the social contacts one would like. (4)
USA | UK | Japan
Young adults and over 85s have highest shares of lonely people of all adult ages
Among elderly, Loneliness tends to have a specific cause, such as widowhood
Young people – gap in expectations between relationships they have and those they want.
Groups most likely to be lonely – people with disabilities | migrants
Europe | USA
2017 – study of Polish immigrants in Netherlands found higher rates of Loneliness
Lyon, France | Deventer, Netherlands | Cleveland, Ohio
Nursing homes and local authorities offering students cheap or free rent in exchange for helping out with housework. (5)
2010 – Trade union survey concluded “the defining aspect of the migrant experience” is Loneliness.
Regions left behind by migrants often have higher rates of Loneliness
2011 – 78% reported “moderate to severe levels of Loneliness”
often as a result of younger relatives having moved
Study of older people in eastern China
Similar trends found in eastern Europe where younger people have left to find work elsewhere.
Smartphones and Social Media blamed for rise in Loneliness in young people. (5)
What is it about us that always wants to blame something?
It would be a wise to read our blog on Blame and what it is presenting.
Could it be possible that young people use social media because there is a void in their life?
In other words there is an empty space they feel and they find something to fill it, in this case it is social media?
What if the distraction of social media keeps our youth entertained with the outer world at the expense of their inner most?
In other words, the connection they truly long for is not happening because they are choosing a false connection which is social media.
2017 study | age group 19 – 32 | quartile that used Social Media most often | twice as likely to report Loneliness.
It is not clear whether it is heavy social media use leading to Loneliness or vice versa.
Others are sure that technology can reduce Loneliness
Policymakers are experimenting with incentives to encourage old and young to mix
$7 billion – government spends on extra health care costs associated with social isolation for age 65 and older.
22% – 50% population estimated to be socially disconnected
Positive interactions on social media are not making young adults feel more connected, whereas negative experiences increase the likelihood of them reporting loneliness.
Scientists from University of Pittsburgh Center of Research on Media Technology and Health
22 January 2019 – The American Journal of Health Promotion (7)
1,178 Students | 18 – 30 Age Group | Survey about social media use
The findings build on award-winning research conducted in 2017 indicating
more use of social media was associated with increased feelings of loneliness.
“Social media is seemingly about connecting people. So it is surprising and interesting that our investigations reveal social media being linked to Loneliness.
Perceived social isolation, which is synonym for loneliness, is associated with poor health outcomes such as High Blood Pressure | Heart Disease | Depression
Social media is so pervasive, it is critically important that we better understand why this is happening and how we can help people navigate social media without as many negative consequences.”
Brian Primack – M.D., Ph.D., Director of Pitt’s MTH | Dean Pitt’s Honors College (8)
500,000 people stay at home at least 6 months at a time, making no contact with the outside world.
2016 – Government report (5)
Younger people were in fact lonelier than older people
As technology becomes more human, it may be able to do more and more to substitute for human relationships.
In the meantime, services that offer human contact to the lonely will thrive
Currently there are agencies and apps that allow one to
rent a family | rent a friend | a girlfriend for a singleton | a funeral mourner | companion to watch TV
Social robots have been used for some time – they are becoming more sophisticated.
Pepper, a human-ish robot can follow a person’s gaze and adapt its behaviour in response to humans. (5)
Seaside town began deploying Pepper the humanoid robot in care homes (5)
75% doctors say 1 in 5 people a day – main ailment is Loneliness
55,000 people | BBC poll | 33% “often” or “very often” feel lonely | 40% among those aged 16 – 24
£20 million government committed to anti-loneliness efforts
38% increase in single-table bookings on online reservation service since 2014 (6)
25% increase risk of premature death
People with a high degree of Loneliness – twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s
Deficiencies in social relationships are associated with an increased risk of developing Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke. (9)
Older people – age 65 and over
200,000 not had a conversation with friends or family for a month
360,000 not had a conversation with friends or family for over a week
975,000 often or always feel lonely
1.2 million are persistently or chronically lonely (10)
“I did the dreaded ‘lingering in the car park on a Friday after work’ knowing I would not speak to anyone again until Monday.”
39 year old woman shares her experience of Loneliness
“I remember one man, in his 90’s and his voice was really, really croaky because he hadn’t spoken to anyone for more than three months.
He became incredibly tearful talking about how excited he was that he was going to have company…”
Amy Perrin, founder of Marmalade Trust
“Lonely people do not choose to be lonely; they are often lonely as a defensive measure against a world that they perceive to be threatening and hostile…”
Steve Cole – Professor of Medicine, UCLA (11)
Analysis by the Office of National Statistics
1 in 10 children age 10 – 15 often lonely
Free school meals | live in cities | report low satisfaction health | low satisfaction in relationships – friends | family
‘When young people are feeling isolated it could be hurting their mental health or they can even be vulnerable to grooming.’
Richard Crelin – Policy Manager, Children’s Society (12)
27% children who received free school meals said they were often lonely
Is this a combination of deprivation and social stigma as this report suggests?
Issues identified as contributing to Loneliness include –
Punishment practices involving isolation and exclusion | approaches to supporting children with disabilities | bullying
“Cyber bullying is a big problem in my school at the moment.
There has been a boy who has just had it all thrown at him.
And he just is alone all the time.” Boy aged 12 (12)
Children who were interviewed volunteered their own ideas for tackling the problem, which included making it more acceptable to discuss Loneliness.
Is this wisdom from our children worth taking note of?
Could Talking about this topic of Loneliness be the start?
What if we could start with Honesty in our discussions?
Could it be that Simple?
Depressed | Inactive | Out of Work
Study reveals lives of Lonely Young Adults
2018 | New Research | Kings College London | 2000 Surveyed | Age 18
25% study participants reported feeling lonely some of the time
Lonely young adults are more likely to experience Mental Health problems and more likely to be out of work than their peers.
The study published in Psychological Medicine gives a detailed snapshot of the lives of lonely 18 year olds and shows how Loneliness goes hand-in-hand with a wide range of problems in health and well-being.
With increasing attention on Loneliness as a major public health issue, the study highlights the importance of early intervention to prevent young adults being trapped in Loneliness as they age.
‘It’s often assumed that Loneliness is an affliction of old age, but it is also very common among younger people.
Unlike many other risk factors, Loneliness does not discriminate: it affects people from all walks of life; men and women, rich and poor.’
Dr. Timothy Matthews | Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience | Kings College London (13)
Lonely Young Adults
more likely to be out of work | education | training
less confident about career prospects
less likely to be physically active
more likely to smoke
more likely use technology compulsively
‘It is important that we become comfortable talking about Loneliness as a society.
People are often reluctant to admit that they feel lonely because there is still a stigma attached to it. That in itself can be profoundly isolating.’
Professor Louise Arseneault | Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience | Kings College London (13)
Health Secretary – Matt Hancock has ordered a review of our reliance on prescription drugs. He said he wanted GPs to advise more patients to join walking groups, take part in coffee mornings or do some gardening or volunteering.
Such ‘social prescribing’ has been shown to be effective against
Dementia| Heart disease | Type 2 Diabetes | Depression | Loneliness
Daily Mail page 6 – 8 December 2018 (14)
16 – 24 year old young adults reported feeling lonely more often than those in older age groups
Office of National Statistics, England – 10 April 2018 (15)
37% adults feel lonely as a result of feeling Stressed (16)
WHY does anyone feel lonely as a result of feeling stressed?
It would be worth reading our detailed blog on Stress, which brings awareness and understanding about this modern-day illness.
Friendship Apps – Cure to Modern Day Loneliness
According to research from University of Oxford and Aalto University, Finland – our social circle shrinks soon after our mid-20s.
3 million mobile phone users were analysed in this study, looking at who they contacted and when.
Results stated we make more and more friends until age 25, after which we lose them rapidly. Women losing them at a faster rate than men.
This may explain why most friendship apps target women only
In Britain, Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions, with researchers estimating it affects up to 1 in 4 people.
Feeling lonely is a predictor of both health and Happiness
33% women are more afraid of Loneliness than Cancer
There is a significant irony in the fact that the very technology helping people to meet others via friendship apps might be part of the reason people are feeling isolated in the first place.
“We are feeling lonelier than ever partly because of the shallowness of online ‘friendships’, which can occupy much of our time.
In our newfound tendency to turn everything over to the online world, we forget that people who might become our friends are everywhere.
Nancy Colier – Psychotherapist | Author of The Power of Off (17)
Can friendship apps really help us to not feel alone?
Social Relationships and Health
The Toxic Effects of Perceived Social Isolation
Substantial evidence has accumulated to suggest that social relationships are important for mental and physical well-being across the lifespan.
Researchers traditionally tended to focus on the physical environment when investigating factors influencing health. This focus has broadened in the last few decades to include the possibility that features of one’s social relationships not only impact health behaviours but might also have direct effects on the brain, biology and health.
Humans are born to one of the longest periods of dependency of any species and are dependent on conspecifics (members of the same species) across the lifespan to survive and prosper.
No surprise – humans do not fare well – whether they are confined to solitary living or they simply perceive that they live in relative isolation.
Feelings of Loneliness were found to be associated with increased mortality risk over a 6 year period.
Higher rates of morbidity and mortality in lonely older adults have been reported.
Loneliness has also been found to be a risk factor for
increased vascular resistance | increase in blood pressure | metabolic syndrome | fragmented sleep | increased hypothalamic pituitary adrenocortical activity | increased glucocorticoid insensitivity | diminished immunity | diminished impulse control
Included in the documentation of these associations are longitudinal as well as cross-sectional studies and evidence that the association with Loneliness holds even when controlling for other risk factors such as marital status, frequency of contact with friends and family, Depression and social support.
Like physical pain serves as a signal to draw attention and respond to threats or damage to one’s physical body, the feelings of Loneliness serve as a figural signal to draw attention to and motivate responses to threats or damage to one’s social body.
Cacioppo et al., 2013; Cacioppo & Hawkley, 2009 (18)
Early in our history as a species, we survived and prospered by banding together – in couples, in families, in tribes – to provide mutual protection and assistance.
The aversive feeling of Loneliness serves to prompt us to renew the connections we need to ensure survival and to promote social trust, cohesiveness and collective action.
Hunger, thirst and physical pain, if ignored, ultimately reduce a person’s ability in the wild to find and capture food.
Loneliness, if ignored can have damaging effects that contribute to deleterious mental and physical health.
So what happened?
What is this research conveying to us?
History tells us when we were together and lived in a way where we connected with each other, Loneliness did not exist.
What is missing and is it obvious to us?
Could it be as simple as good old fashion talking and connection with an open-ness and no hidden agenda?
Could that be it?
Studies indicate that there are environmental influences on Loneliness.
Those who leave family and friends behind often feel increased social isolation when they arrive at college even though they are surrounded by large numbers of other young adults.
The researchers investigated whether lonely days invade the night and found that lonely, compared to non-lonely, college students showed more micro-awakenings and less restful sleep.
These results could not be explained in terms of differences in sleep duration, depressive symptomatology or other risk factors but instead reflected the lonely brain remaining relatively vigilant during sleep.
Cacioppo, Hawkley, Berntson et al., 2002 (18)
Why is this?
A lonely college student not able to let go and get a deep sleep
Our forensic blog on Sleep would bring a deeper understanding here for the reader
The effect of Loneliness on daytime dysfunction was independent of sleep duration, indicating that the same amount of sleep was less salubrious (health-giving) when individuals felt relatively socially isolated.
Hawkley, Preacher, et al., 2010 (18)
Social network characteristics are related to Loneliness but people can feel lonely in a marriage, while leading a company or sitting in a central position in a social network.
Research has shown that relational variables such as marital status, group memberships and frequency of contact with friends and family are significant predictors of Loneliness but the association between these objective relational variables and Loneliness have generally been found to be mediated by an individual’s perceptions of relationship quality.
Hawkley et al., 2008; Wheeler, Reis & Nezlek, 1983 (18)
People may have access to considerable support from others but the support may have nothing to do with sharing good times together – it may come at a cost, as in an exchange relationship or it may come from someone other than the person with whom an individual aspires connection.
A bereaved spouse can feel lonely even though family and friends provide emotional, tangible, informational and belonging support.
Accordingly, even after statistically controlling for social support, Loneliness has been found to be a risk factor for a host of mental and physical health problems including –
Depressive symptomatology | impaired cognitive performance | cognitive decline | progression of Alzheimer’s disease | fragmented sleep | morning rise in cortisol | elevated blood pressure | morbidity | mortality
The aversion of loneliness increases people’s awareness of the deficits in their social relationships and motivates the person to attend to and connect with others. The emphasis on self-preservation may be largely non-conscious, however increasing the likelihood that a person who feels lonely will act in a more defensive and self-protective fashion (Cacioppo & Hawkley, 2005, 2009). This in turn can undermine the achievement of the goal to form better connections with others.
Feeling socially isolated activates neurobiological mechanisms that may promote self-preservation in the short-term but take a toll on health and well-being in the long-term.
Among these effects are higher vascular resistance in young adults, larger morning rises in cortisol, a powerful Stress hormone, the consequence of the brain’s preparation for another dangerous day (Adam et al., 2006) increased prepotent responding, which means that behaviours high in the response hierarchy are more likely even though this includes impulsive (including poor health) behaviours (Cacioppo, Ernst et al., 2000; Hawkley, Thisted, & Cacioppo, 2009); altered gene expression, for instance, increasing inflammatory biology to deal with assaults (Cole et al., 2007, 2011) and the decreased salubriousness of sleep, the consequence of the brain’s high alert state (Cacioppo, Hawkley, Berntson et al., 2002; Hawkley, Preacher et al., 2010). Together, these processes can contribute to early morbidity and mortality. (18)
We have Loneliness on the rise and yet we have more people on the planet than ever before and supposedly more things to keep us wired up and connected.
Something is not making sense
What if the answer is really Simple
What if we just need to Plug in and Connect – read the blog, apply what is being presented and bingo see what happens
What if when we Plug in and Connect to who we truly are nothing on the outside gives us the same quality, so we get to feel a difference – a vibration that confirms to us what is Truth and what is not
What if we learn to breathe our own breath from that simple connection to our inner most essence and feel what it means to live and not just exist
What if that connection can deepen if we make it part of our practical daily life so it becomes a part of our Foundation
What if what we miss more than anything is actually that connection to our deeper self that needs or wants nothing because it has everything when it is plugged in
What if we can end the Loneliness for others by simply making sure we stay committed to plugging in and connecting as often as we can in our day until there comes a time where we know instantly if we are plugged in or out
What if we as individuals created Loneliness in the first place and now we can make a choice to end that simply by making that connection and holding steady with our commitment and consistency
Could it be that Simple?
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