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1. Loneliness: what it is, why it’s a growing problem, and what can help
Loneliness is becoming an increasing issue in society today, not just affecting the elderly or those who live alone.
Loneliness has become indiscriminate affecting all age ranges and genders.
The current climate we find ourselves in has only enhanced this issue and, now more than ever, do we need to address this and realise that there are ways we can help ourselves and others.
What is Loneliness?
There is no one thing that determines or causes loneliness, it is a personal experience to each individual. It has been described as a feeling of an individual’s ‘subjective sense of lacking desired affection, closeness, and social interaction with others’. Thus, meaning that it is different to the physical state of being alone.
It may be brought on by a certain event in one’s life or may be impacted by an individual’s state of mind.
Although Loneliness is not a recognised mental health problem, stigmas attached to mental health can increase the feeling of being alone as it may be difficult to converse how you feel. It has also been suggested that feelings of loneliness can further increase risk of suffering from mental health problems due to feelings of isolation and anxiety.
Loneliness used to be something often associated with the elderly but according to recent research feelings of loneliness by younger people aged 16-24 are on the rise.
The increase in technology, social media and societal expectations all have an impact on how one feels. Feelings of comparison or fear of being left out are becoming more prominent issues in young people which are often linked back to time spent on social media.
How is it becoming more of an issue?
How has Coronavirus Impacted Loneliness?
Many people are experiencing loneliness now, when they may have never of experienced it before, and it is becoming an even bigger epidemic.
The current pandemic has only further intensified the rise of loneliness. Coronavirus lockdowns, uncertainty, loss of friends or family and jobs have all impacted how connected people feel with others.
Prior to the Coronavirus Pandemic, it was found that 8.5% of people in the UK felt they were often or always lonely. When the same question was asked to individuals during the first lockdown of 2020 this number had risen to 18.5%. It is undeniable that the pressures of the lockdown measures imposed have affected people’s experience of loneliness and this can further impact our mental wellbeing and quality of life.
However, it is important to understand that if you are feeling this way, you are not alone and that there are ways you can help yourself.
What you can do
Firstly, recognise that this feeling is manageable. Become aware of how you are feeling and allow yourself to experience it and understand how it makes you feel.
Although we may not be able to physically meet others at this current time, communication through technology has become more accessible. Reaching out for peer support on an online chat room or service can be a great way of communicating with others and making new friends without the anxiety of being in a social situation.
The government has started to recognise the importance of tackling loneliness in this current climate and has funded charities such as Mind, Alzheimer’s society, and Sense to help to expand their ability to provide for people who may be suffering.
Ensure you are monitoring how you spend your time on social media. If you feel certain feelings of anxiety or comparison after using a platform, it may be useful to reduce your time on certain apps.
You can reach out to friends and family through telephone or zoom calls, letting others know how you are feeling which can allow them to be aware of your circumstance.
It may be possible to find ways to become involved in groups through volunteering, this can also be a great way to meet other like-minded people and allow you to feel a part of something.
Ensure you are looking after yourself, these times will pass, and better days are yet to come. It can be helpful to set a routine for yourself throughout the day, so you have things to keep you busy and look forward to. This may be setting time aside to get outside, exercise or even take up a new hobby.
How you can help others
It is important in times like these that we look out for each other. If you are aware that someone may be suffering from loneliness there are several things you can do to help.
- Reach out to them, whether this is a message or a phone call. This allows them to know you are there for them even when they are feeling low.
- Though there are current restrictions on what we can do in regard to meeting others right now, it is possible to set up a virtual call or game which others can be involved in and allows for social connection.
- Be there to listen.
Please do remember that help is out there. You are not alone in feeling this way and reaching out may benefit someone else as much as it helps you.
By: Emily Spillane, Level 3 Personal Trainer