No one should feel they have no one to turn to, but we also know that loneliness can have a big impact on our mental and physical health. Older people are especially vulnerable to social isolation – and it can have a serious effect on health.
Loneliness is bad for our health
Not just your mental health, persistent feeling lonely contributes to a shorter life span. It has been shown to increase blood pressure, cholesterol and cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Research has shown that social isolation may be worse for us than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is more damaging than obesity.
Loneliness and depression are linked together. If we are feeling low or worthless, we withdraw from social situations. When we don’t feel like we belong or have connections with others, we being to feel lonely.
Feeling lonely isn’t a mental health problem by itself. However, if you have an existing mental health problem, you are more likely to feel lonely. This can have a negative effect on your mental health.
It’s easy to fall into a cycle of feeling lonely, which then makes you feel depressed. No one should feel like they have no one to talk to. With half a million older people who go at least five or six days a week without seeing speaking to anyone, it’s not a shock they struggle with feeling lonely.
Loneliness is still considered a taboo subject. Research suggests that 92% of people are scared to admit that they feel lonely. A fear of people thinking something is wrong with them, or it’s their own fault they feel that way, can make it hard for someone to ask for help. It’s important that we start to speak about loneliness and the effect it can have on someone.
There are 1.2 million chronically lonely older people in the UK, and over 9 million in the UK of across all adult ages, it’s time we stop the stigma and talk about loneliness.
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