Human beings are, and always have been – social creatures. We might be comfortable in our own company, but it is unlikely that we will ever make a choice to be lonely, and that’s primarily because it is bad for us.
We already know that loneliness can make people desperately unhappy, but research suggesting that a lack of human contact can impact us physically, is continuing to emerge.
Campaign to End Loneliness is a coalition of organisations who are all working together in a bid tackle the growing problem of an increasingly lonely aging population, and according to director Laura Ferguson, this issue needs to be tackled urgently.
“There are links with early death. The risk factor is similar to smoking and worse than obesity.” She said.
According to David McCullough who is the chief executive of voluntary service WRVS, volunteers deal with frail elderly individuals everyday that are experiencing illness and a loss of mobility.
“When I go on meals on wheels runs it bring it home to me. There are all these people waiting at the door for us, for a visit by another human being. It’s the social high point of their day.” He commented.
Studies carried out over the past few decades have shown that at least 10% of the elderly feel lonely most or all of the time, meaning that approximately one million individuals over 65 are feeling this way.
Paul Burstow, current Care Services Minister, is in agreement that society needs to be doing more to tackle this issue. He said: “Loneliness can have a significant impact on people’s health, yet, unlike risks such as alcohol and obesity, it is still out of sight.”
Whilst it is clear that loneliness is a growing health concern, it is an issue that can be overcome without having a lasting or permanent impact on health.
Nowadays there are numerous befriending services available for elderly individuals who lack social interaction, and simply remaining aware that loneliness can become a problem will help to make and keep individuals at risk more alert.
If you are finding yourself socialising less and less then it is important you take measures to try and prevent yourself from becoming isolated.
Join a befriending service, sign up to a local group, find out about volunteers in your local area and make an effort to strike up a simple friendship with a neighbour. All of the above are simple undertakings that can have a lasting positive impact on your emotional wellness.
If you have been in social isolation for some time now, you may find that you need an extra helping hand to overcome the side effects. If you have reached the stage where you feel that your emotional health is suffering then you may benefit from a talk therapy method such as cognitive behavioural therapy.
View and comment on the original BBC News article.