ARE WE ALONE?

I’m not referring to extraterrestrial life in the universe, but alone in the sense of having a lack of loved ones or friends in our lives.

Loneliness is not measured by the number of friends or social contacts a person has, but a state where a person has fewer social contacts and meaningful relationships than they would like.  This refers to relationships that make them feel known and understood or left out.  Essentially, if you feel lonely, you are lonely.  One out of two Americans now fall into that category.  Thirteen percent of people in the study said there were zero people who knew them well.

Studies in other developed countries found the same levels of loneliness.

In England, 41% of people said the TV or their pet was their main source of company.  So important was the issue, that the country appointed a cabinet-level minster to address the problem.

In Japan, a study found that more than a half million people spent at least 6 months at home with no outside contact.

A 2010 study found that loneliness shortens a person’s life by 15 years.  Loneliness also increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke and cancer.

Lonely people are more likely to suffer form insomnia, depression, drug abuse and cognitive decline.  Just as hunger encourages people to seek food, loneliness encourages people to seek companionship.

To encourage these behaviors, the body produces the stress hormone, cortisol.  In small doses, cortisol makes people more alert to danger.  But if the body is exposed to cortisol for a long person of time, it can lead to high blood pressure, increased inflammation and a weakened immune system.

It has been found the lonely people develop unhealthy habits to compensate, such as substance abuse, overeating and not exercising.

Between 1985 and 2009, the average American’s social network shrunk by one-third.  This correlates closely with the advent of the computer, cell phones and social media.

One cause is that many baby boomers had no children.  Then with divorce, one in 10 has no spouse, romantic partner, or living children.  One in five baby bombers live alone.

And now, with many searching for jobs, many do not live in one place long enough to develop social ties.

Social media, rather than providing people more opportunities to be connected, actually feeds loneliness by reminding them how few intimate contacts they really have.

In one study, Americans ages 19 to 32 were twice as likely to report feeing of loneliness.

What to do?  First recognize and accept your situation.  Two, make a plan of how to fix thing.  Three, bring at least one person into your circle, tell them your concerns and ask for input and their thoughts on the course of action you have laid out.  report to them any progress you are making.   Do not let them down.  Do not let yourself down.

 

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