The Loneliness Epidemic
Research and polling have shown us that our society has been plagued by loneliness, with some experts calling it an "epidemic."
The health effects of loneliness go beyond feeling sad. One study claimed that loneliness and social isolation could be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes daily.
Staying social can provide several benefits to your physical and mental health. Research has shown that people with more social support tend to live longer, enjoy better physical health and a higher immune system, and may even have a lower risk of developing dementia. On top of that, interacting with others boosts overall feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression.
Who’s affected most by loneliness? YouGov surveyed 1,254 Americans over 18 about friendship and loneliness, and, at 30 percent, Millennials were the most likely age cohort to say they felt lonely "often" or "always." By contrast, 20 percent of Gen-X respondents said they felt lonely often or permanently, and only 15 percent of Baby Boomers gave those answers. Levels of loneliness also spike for older adults over the age of 75. This is most likely due to a decline in overall health and cognitive ability and a possible loss of a life partner or loved one.
Humans are social beings, but with all the technology and other distractions at our disposal, it’s easy to get caught up in activities that don’t require human interaction. If you’re looking to boost your social engagement, here are some ideas:
- Use Skype or Facetime to catch up with friends or family that live far away. - Walkthrough a popular neighborhood and say hello to people you pass on the street. - Offer to babysit a child or help them with their homework. - Sign up for a class in your community. - Throw a dinner party for friends or have a game night with cards and board games. - Volunteer your time for a cause you believe in. - Play a group sport like bowling, basketball, golf, or lawn croquet.
Even the most introverted people can benefit from spending some time in a social setting, even if that means sitting quietly in a busy coffee shop with a book or spending time with a loved one over a coffee or tea.