Loneliness is a universal human emotion that is both complex and unique to each individual and for many older people their experience of loneliness may increase with the passing of time with the death of close friends, partners and cessation of working.
Loneliness is defined as a state of mind and can cause people to feel empty, alone, and unwanted. People who are lonely often crave human contact, but their state of mind or living situation makes it more difficult to form connections with other people.
The consequences of loneliness are significant with wide-ranging health risks (both mental and physical) associated with loneliness. These include
- Increased risk of Cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Increased stress levels
- Decreased memory and learning
- Depression and in extreme cases suicidal thoughts
- Antisocial behavior
- Poor decision-making
- Alcoholism and drug abuse
- It can accelerate the progression of Alzheimer’s disease
- Altered brain function
Studies show that loneliness is a common concern for the elderly.
A quick google search brings up 10 plus pages of quotes or links to quotes on Loneliness with one site boasting no less than 2,684 quotes alone, and in a study conducted by Swinburne University in Melbourne and the Australian Psychological Society in 2018 when directly asked how lonely they felt, with a shocking 50.5% of Australians reported they felt lonely for at least a day in the previous week; 27.6% felt lonely for three or more days. Nearly 30% rarely or never felt they were part of a group of friends.
Governments, taxpayers, families and friends around the world recognize the impact of loneliness. In Britain after a 2017 report showed that more than nine million people in Britain often or always feel lonely, prompting Prime Minister Theresa May to appoint a first Minister for Loneliness who is tasked with developing programs to increase social connectedness among the country’s people.
But combating loneliness does require a conscious effort on our part to make or assist in a change. Making a change, in the long run, can make all of us happier, healthier, and enable us to impact others around us in a positive way.
Some ways each of us can prevent loneliness:
- Recognize that loneliness is a sign that something needs to change,
- Understand the effects that loneliness has on your life, both physically and mentally,
- Consider doing community service or another activity that you enjoy. These situations present great opportunities to meet people and cultivate new friendships and social interactions,
- Focus on developing quality relationships with people who share similar attitudes, interests, and values with you; and
- Expect the best. Lonely people often expect rejection, so instead focus on positive thoughts and attitudes in your social relationships.
How can you help if someone you know shows signs of loneliness
- Support them to access activities that may bring them joy,
- If getting out and about is difficult for them, engage a service provider who can support them to increase engagement in live and activities,
- Identifying old interests that they had and finding a companion who shares those interests,
- Even if the person can no longer engage in the activity, reminiscing about how they used to engage in it and sharing stories can help immensely; and
- Talk to their treating GP if the person is exhibiting signs of depression, withdrawing from engagement and reluctant to socialise.
If you would like to know about how Perth Care + Companion Company can help you or your loved one with loneliness give us a call 9276 1520.