People are getting isolated and lonely at epic levels. I believe that we are far more susceptible to this happening due to our limitations. At times we cannot even leave the house. I can’t drive so I certainly do not run random errands to just get out of the house.
In the last 50 years, rates of loneliness have doubled in the United States. In a survey of over 20,000 American adults, it was found that almost half of respondents reported feeling alone, left out, and isolated. Further, one in four Americans shared that they rarely feel understood, and one in five people believe they rarely or never feel not close to people. Psychology Today
The cost of loneliness on our health
Loneliness has been associated with cardiovascular problems and premature death. Lonelier individuals are less likely to achieve quality sleep. Lonely individuals experience reductions in reasoning and creativity. In addition to these reduced abilities, loneliness affects workplace productivity, as lonely individuals report less job satisfaction and are more likely to face unemployment. Loneliness is commonly correlated with mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, and suicidality. Similarly, loneliness is often associated with poor coping mechanisms, such as compulsive technology use, smoking, and self-harm. Psychology Today
his according to former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, among others, who has stressed the significant health threat. Loneliness has been estimated to shorten a person’s life by 15 years, equivalent in impact to being obese or smoking 15 cigarettes per day. A recent study revealed a surprising association between loneliness and cancer mortality risk, pointing to the role loneliness plays in cancer’s course, including responsiveness to treatments. Scientific America
But, hey, we connect on social media, right?
Individuals who are lacking connection in their lives may turn to the digital realm to quench their isolation. Longing for connection, someone who is lonely may be more connected to his or her phone. In a survey exploring the social media patterns of 1,781 young adults, it was found that individuals who logged in for a half an hour per day felt less lonely compared to individuals who logged on for more than two hours daily. Further, participants who logged in nine times weekly felt less isolated when compared to respondents who checked over 50 times per week. However, in the Cigna Loneliness Index, social media use was not found to be a predictor of loneliness. Hence, it may be important to consider quality versus quantity. Social media as a factor may be less about how often social media is utilized and more about how social media is used. Psychology Today
So what the hell can we All do about this especially if we are chronically ill?
So. Well. I was a hermit for some time with unmanaged and depression. And I lost all my friends, which just confirmed I should be alone and sad and guilty. I was in pain and why should I even try anyway? But we are social animals. And this loneliness epidemic is a lack of Connection to other people. So I got out of that funk but it took a very, very long time. And it took the realization I was making my spouse a hermit too… and that wasn’t healthy. So I decided to not say ‘no’ to invitations and social events when I felt the pain was moderate enough to handle it. I had rules: not too much travel to get there, we would go ourselves so I could leave if I needed to, and never would I feel obligated to stay if the pain got too high, and to say no to environments I knew would be hell for my brain. And so we did go out and about.
- I go for coffee with my mom often
- I play cards with friends from time to time
- I go to karaoke with a friend sometimes
- I go to campfires and BBQs
- My spouse goes out and about without me when I can’t do a thing
- We socialize with our neighbour
- I went to a paint nite one time and that was a blast
And it is hard when I am as sick as I am these days to do things. And I do not do things often or for long. But maybe once a month? Maybe twice? It depends on how I am feeling.
I am aware isolation is dangerous on our mental and emotional state. But, damn, it is hard to Do Things when you are in a lot of pain or dizzy. So you have to be pretty mellow about it all.
Things to do:
- Go physically to a pain support group and interact with other people
- For whatever hobby you have join a group for it.
- Make a group locally for a hobby you have
- Make a game night or go to one set up at the local coffee shop sort of thing
- Go to a class and learn a new skill. No, I do not mean via YouTube, actually out there in the world.
- Volunteer at a place that allows for flexibility, since we are not exactly dependable or reliable with schedules due to disability.
Just some suggestions. Anyway, I know it is very hard to do. But even just going outside and going for a walk can help with that cabin fever isolation. And I am introverted. My hobbies are all me alone indoor hobbies. And people are not exactly my deal in general. But I know the cost of isolation. And I really enjoy social interaction based on my limitations.
Anyway, as an introvert, I know there is a massive difference between loneliness and alone time. I Need alone time to function as a human being. But a person can be lonely in a crowd of people. Because it is the connection we need not the people. We need people to connect to on some level. And finding that, these days, is just getting harder.