We are the most connected generation of all times, thanks to the internet that has made the existence of geographical distances virtually nil. Every person that we know can be contacted instantaneously through various social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. We can text people, call them and even video call people in most parts of the world.
With all these advanced technologies, we should absolutely even doubt that people would feel lonely, but alas, that is exactly what most of us feel! Most of us are lonely, and the people around cannot help because they are lonely too. It is indeed a lone battle for people in this era.
It has been found that loneliness is spreading like an epidemic among people all over the world, especially affecting the younger generation and the elderly people. It has been assumed that the people who are invested in social media platforms are much more vulnerable to loneliness. Loneliness is now competing with obesity as a prime cause for chronic illnesses and researchers say it should not be ignored any longer.
Loneliness has been defined as the perceived gap between the social connections that an individual desires and one that the individual actually has. Loneliness and social isolation are two different terms but mistakenly used as synonyms. A socially alienated person does not desire connections and has less chances of feeling lonely. On the other hand, lonely people feel lonely even when they are surrounded by people. The people around a lonely person make them feel more alienated, not less.
While social media has made it a point to make sure we are virtually connected to many people, real life connections are harder than ever to find. In this light, loneliness can no longer be considered just another feeling and should be taken as a serious concern that affects all groups and ages of people around the globe. Apps such as tinder might look like a dating app in the forefront but have contributed greatly in decreasing the percentage of people who feel lonely by making it easier to connect and meet people of similar interests.
Lonely people are more like to die twice as prematurely as a result of increased coronary heart disease and stroke risk. Feeling lonely can suppress our immune system exposing us to various illnesses. Chronic loneliness has been found to be as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes per day and can lead to an increase in our risk of early death by a shocking 29%.
Loneliness increases the risk of developing mental issues and can often lead to depression and anxiety, the leading causes of suicides. Doctors have warned that loneliness must be cured as a disease before it starts affecting the health of individuals at a faster pace. There is a long list of health issues that root from loneliness besides diminished immune system.Loneliness often disrupts sleep and daytime functioning, affects mental and cognitive functions, elevates blood pressure and releases stress hormone called cortisol in the body. Along with this, studies have found that people who are socially connected have a lowered risk of dementia than lonely people.
Elderly people are more exposed to loneliness than young adults and singles are more affected by loneliness than those in a marriage or a relationship. While single women are four times more likely to be haunted by loneliness, single men are ten times more likely to be affected by the same. This is due to the female nature of depending on friends/families and the male nature of hiding true emotions and dealing with them individually.
In the UK, approximately 9 million people reported that they are either always or often lonely. This number amounts to greater than the entire population of London. In the US as well, 25-30% of people surveyed felt either always or often lonely. In an attempt to decrease loneliness, social set ups and meetings can be organized so that the social needs of a person are fulfilled.
The governments must start playing an active role in decreasing loneliness to reduce expenses on health care issues caused by loneliness. Families and friends must always look out for each other and make sure that emotions of all individuals in the groups are validated. This helps to reduce loneliness and the health issues tagging along with it. You can save a life by making a phone call or visiting a friend who seems off. And by saving one life, you can save many others related to it.