How loneliness and isolation negatively affects your health
It is estimated that among those aged over 65, between 5% -16% report loneliness and 12% feel isolated. Studies show that acute loneliness and social isolation can impact gravely on wellbeing and quality of life, with demonstrable negative health effects. Being lonely has a significant and lasting negative effect on blood pressure and is associated with depression (either as a cause or as a consequence). Feeling alone or socially isolated for a long time can be harmful. You might experience physical or mental problems or do things that are bad for you.
Some signs to look for include:
- Physical symptoms – such as headaches, feeling ill, having pains, feeling tired, having sleep problems or lacking motivation
- Mental health conditions – such as depression, feeling anxious, having panic attacks or feeling paranoid
- Low energy – tiredness or lack of motivation
- Sleep problems – difficulty getting to sleep, waking frequently or sleeping too much
- Diet problems – such as putting on weight, losing weight or losing your appetite
- Negative feelings – such as feeling worthless or hopeless or thinking about self-harm
- Substance abuse – such as drinking a lot of alcohol, misusing medicines or taking drugs
Handy tips to overcoming isolation and loneliness
“Social relationships are fundamental to our thriving,” says Louise Hawkley, PhD, a research associate in the psychology department at the University of Chicago. The fact that loneliness feels so uncomfortable is a reminder to pay attention to and nurture these relationships that can further your happiness. No matter how many people are around you or in your life, depression can still bring loneliness.
There are a few simple activities that will help avoid loneliness and isolation and improve your life. Start by:
- Connecting with family and friends – meet them face-to-face, pick up the phone, send them an email or use video technology (Facetime, Whatsapp, Skype)
- Getting out of the house – go shopping, church, exercise, join a club or enrol to a class / study
- Volunteering – meet new people to feel connected and valued
- Getting a pet – pets are great conversation starters. They can improve your physical and mental health.
16 ways to help combat loneliness and social isolation
Feelings of loneliness doesn’t require a constant to call for action, but you will need to give yourself a push to get back into the thick of life, to re-engage with others, in order to start feeling better.
These 16 ways are a good base to help get you back into the swing of things:
- Make a plan
- Do something — anything
- Learn to love computers
- Have realistic standards
- Think beyond yourself
- Reach out to a lonely person
- Call, don’t post or email
- Talk to a trusted friend or relative
- Smile, even if it feels hard
- Get involved in local community activities
- Help others
- Join the University of the Third Age
- Explore your faith
- Bond with a dog
- Explore therapy
- Read list in more detail
To read the list of 16 ways above in more detail, visit our blog “16 ways to help combat loneliness and social isolation“.
Want to get social today? Let’s go!
Handy links to community groups and websites to get you being social
- Sydney Seniors Week
- Speak with someone from Australian Red Cross
– TeleCHAT provides friendship and a link to the community through a regular phone call if you feel socially isolated.
– Free call: (03) 9345 1800
- Senior Services Guide – Your one stop shop for various services, including a ‘Social Support’ directory.
- Thinking of trying online dating? Here are some dating websites for the Over 60s
– eHarmony senior dating
– RSVP senior dating
- Vision Australia Community Group
– Connect in person: Over 60 groups meet regularly in local communities – Find a group near you. Alternative, call Vision Australia on 1300 84 74 66
– Vision Australia centres host fun events and activities – See what’s on in your local area
– Vision Australia’s Connecting with others program:
– Connect Online
– Connect in Person
– Connect on Facebook
– Connect by Telephone – Vision Australia’s Telelink Program. Topics include current affairs, crosswords, gardening, sport, book clubs, social groups in non-English languages and more.
– Social Care Institute for Excellence. At a glance 60: Preventing loneliness and social isolation among older people. May 2012. Read more
– Mind Health Connect, Loneliness and Isolation. August 2015. Read more
– Everyday Health, Major Depression Resource Center. Dealing With Depression and Loneliness. By Madeline R.Vann, MPH. Read more
– Socially active older adults have slower rates of health declines, December 1, 2011. By Sharyn Alden. Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
60+Club eBooks: The Why’s of Goodness
Volume three offers a more detailed look in to identifying traits of loneliness and isolation, and ways to fight against them. It also delves the negative impacts loneliness and how detrimental it can be to your health and wellbeing. The volume includes case studies from previous and ongoing social experiments and medical studies that directly link ways to beat loneliness and isolation. We also provide ideas to help get you started. Volume three is spread over three chapters, the former being chapter 3.2. The other two chapters (3.1 and 3.3) explore a number of factors to improving health and wellbeing, such as being social, keeping in touch with friends, making new friends, volunteering, generosity, and getting quality sleep. Read more on Volume 3.
Volume Three is titled “The Why’s of Goodness”, comprising 36 pages, the volume explores three links to improve your health and wellbeing, with chapters on the three Why’s:
– 3.1 – Why you need a good night’s sleep
– 3.2 – Why being social is good for your health
– 3.3 – Why being generous after 60 is good for you
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