You Needn’t Be Alone: Facts About Loneliness and Looking After YourselfMar 03, 2023
“How we need another soul to cling to.” – Sylvia Plath, American writer and poet1
When one thinks of the various maladies that can (sadly) cast a pall over people in their middle age (40-65), the usual suspects come to mind: cardiac issues, various diseases, arthritis and joint problems, and so on. There’s another condition however that is chronic among many Canadians and people worldwide: loneliness.
Some stats and health effects about loneliness
Loneliness is an epidemic mental health issue that affects millions of Canadians. Statistics Canada actually keeps tabs on this phenomenon; here are their findings for 2021, for those in midlife (both male and female, percentage of each age group):
Loneliness was found to be more pronounced in women than men, and for those who were single than those in a relationship or marriage.2
And while loneliness is a mental health concern, it can have real life physical implications too. Those battling chronic loneliness suffer deleterious health effects worse than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and worse than the effects of obesity. In short: it can be deadly, so much so, that it can alter our very immune systems.3
Loneliness isn’t as simple a condition as some may imagine
Some may think that loneliness just means a person needs to go out and spend more time with others, and is caused only by a lack of social interaction; it’s not so simple. Loneliness is a complex mental health issue, and has numerous triggers and background causes. In an abstract from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the following were listed as some of the triggers for pronounced loneliness:
- Lack of partner/spouse/a live-in companion or friend
- Loss of partner/spouse (widower/widow)
The study’s authors did note that lack of social interaction with friends is a cause as well.4
The American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP, also produced an article on loneliness. In their piece, they cited lack of income as a primary factor in making people vulnerable to loneliness. As of 2018, AARP reported that in the United States, 10 million people over age 50 lived in poverty.5 Other factors included:
- Size and variety of a person’s social network
- Being physically isolated
- Mental health issues, including depression and anxiety
- Overall health quality
- Sexuality: people in the LGBTQ community reported higher feelings of loneliness
And perhaps not surprisingly, people who used social media often like Facebook reported feeling lonelier.
What can be done to combat loneliness in later life?
As with any other aspect of health, there are things you can do to address loneliness or isolation (they are not necessarily the same), or ideally, prevent it. Here are just a few: 6
- Look after yourself. When feeling mentally down, it’s easy to get in a rut and stay that way, and neglecting our physical well-being can soon follow. Try to prevent that by getting enough sleep each night, and, exercise. A healthy diet too is vital.
- Find activities that bring you joy. Did you used to sew, garden, play cards, do puzzles, or what not before? Why not pick one of those up again? Or, scour online for new ideas. A new hobby, or renewing an old one, can bring a much-needed distraction and brighten your day.
- A pet isn’t for everyone, but animal companionship can be very good for one’s mental health.
- Volunteer, or find other ways to get involved in your community. There are plenty of activities offered by many cities or organizations.
- And perhaps one of the best things one can do: meet new people. One of the primary reasons Amintro was created was to combat loneliness, and to let people make new bonds of friendship with people who share their interests. It’s free, and can open up a whole new world of learning and camaraderie.
With most things, be proactive to stave off loneliness
Loneliness can happen to any of us; it’s natural, and, there’s no one correct solution for everyone. Some can still be among friends or a crowd and still feel lonely. If these feelings are persistent, don’t be afraid to talk to someone (like a therapist) and open up to friends and family. Many things in our lives are in our hands, to either tackle head-on, or to do what we can to prevent them. There’s a whole, beautiful world out there to explore still, at any age. Go out and see it, find out what works for you, and do things with those who love and care for you; you deserve it!
References and Resources:
All links have been confirmed current and safe as of date published. Please hover on link to verify title accuracy and safety.
- Goodreads, Loneliness Quotes, goodreads.com.
- Statistics Canada, Table 1: Percentage of persons reporting always or often feeling lonely by gender, age group and marital status, population aged 15 and older, 2021, November 24, 2021.
- Compare with Release date: 2023-02-14
- Sarner, Moya, You are not alone: dealing with the epidemic of chronic loneliness, BBC Science Focus Magazine, June 19, 2019.
- von Soest, Tillmann et al., Development of loneliness in midlife and old age: Its nature and correlates, published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, February 2020.
- Anderson, G. Oscar & Thayer, Colette, Loneliness and Social Connections: A National Survey of Adults 45 and Older, AARP, September 2018.
- National Institute on Aging, Loneliness and Social Isolation – Tips for Staying Connected, US Department of Health & Human Services.
Written and contributed by Charlene Nadalin, Founder of Amintro. Amintro is the online social platform and information hub exclusively for those 50+ interested in expanding their circles of friends and staying involved, informed, and connected. Another great thing about Amintro is that it’s FREE and easy to join! To learn more about Amintro, please visit https://amintro.com/
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