Christian Author: Nancy W. Boyer

Community

Loneliness…a threat to Life

lonelinessNot all lonely people are elderly.  You may have people living next door to you, or down the street, who are extremely lonely. They may be isolating themselves.   This could even be a teenager who is not accepted by his/her peers.   Somehow the “fit in” factor is just not there.  We read of more teenage suicides today.  Often it is bullying in person and through social media, but it could be an unknown cause that brings on depression and a lonely,  “not with it” feeling.

An article I read recently spoke of loneliness and the devastating effects on our human race, which seems to be more prevalent today around the world.   A study was made and these were some of the results:

“…To illustrate the influence of social isolation and loneliness on the risk for premature mortality, Holt-Lunstad presented data from two meta-analyses. The first involved 148 studies, representing more than 300,000 participants and found that greater social connection is associated with a 50 percent reduced risk of early death. The second study, involving 70 studies representing more than 3.4 million individuals primarily from North America but also from Europe, Asia, and Australia, examined the role that social isolation, loneliness, or living alone might have on mortality. Researchers found that all three had a significant and equal effect on the risk of premature death, one that was equal to or exceeded the effect of other well-accepted risk factors, such as obesity.

“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase the risk of premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” said Holt-Lunstad. “With an increasingly aging population, the effect on public health is only anticipated to increase. Indeed, many nations around the world now suggest we are facing a ‘loneliness epidemic.’ The challenge we face now is what can be done about it.”

Holt-Lunstad recommends a greater priority be placed on research and resources to tackle this public health threat from the societal to the individual level. For instance, greater emphasis could be placed on social skills training for children in schools and doctors should be encouraged to include social connectedness in medical screening, she said. Additionally, people should be preparing for retirement socially as well as financially, as many social ties are related to the workplace, she noted.  She added that community planners should make sure to include shared social spaces that encourage gathering and interaction, such as recreation centers and community gardens.”    (article by Janice Wood)

Widows and widowers also find that after a life of perhaps 50+ years with a spouse, the quiet and lack of conversation in a home is deafening.   Don’t forget to include them in your couples invitations.   They need the interaction badly, even if they say that they are “doing just fine.”    Loneliness is a threat to health and length of life.

We know a friend of ours, who lost his wife to cancer, and his children immediately brought him a dog.  I’m sure that their reasoning was to help him with his loneliness, but the young dog was untrained and was probably a source of frustration rather than a great deal of help to his loneliness.  Maybe what he needed was more visits from the family.   One positive thing we noticed was that he was speaking to people where he had meals and was trying to make friends. He was reaching out, but many others will not take that step on their own.

baby feetWe are told that babies that are not held while they are young will not thrive and perhaps die.   It can be assumed, therefore, that adults will not thrive when they are feeling alone and sad.  (Which reminds me, I need to call my cousin’s husband who lost her just a few months ago. Mary Helen had a heart attack during surgery and her husband of many years was devastated.  Sometimes as I write a blog, I find that I also talk to myself. )

Speak to young people that you meet on the street or where they may be working.  Ask “How is your day going?”   Just talking to someone who seems to care about their day could mean the world to them.   Compliment their work where possible.  lonliness4

I gave a compliment recently to a young man who was lining up tomatoes at the front entrance to a country produce store.  I told him that they looked so perfect that I wondered if they were real.   He said, “Gee, thanks for noticing.  I really work hard to make these look great for the customers.”    We continued a conversation and found out that he was working in the mountains for the summer, but would be going to a university in the Fall to teach.   This young man was not lonely, so it seems, but energetic to do the best job he could do.  This too is important.  Social interaction is a need for all humans.  Appreciation is something that most people do not receive as much as they should.

Everyone would like to look like this picture below…happy, engaged in life, rejoicing over a new day….but out of all these….there may be someone who smiles, but is lonely down deep inside.

happy-people2

So look around you today.  See who needs a conversation.  We hear that “talk is cheap”. Not this kind of talk!    It could be worth more than a million dollars to someone who desperately needs it… and it would not be obvious at all to those around them.  It could save a life.

 

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