The feeling of isolation and loneliness
The recent pandemic brought isolation, loneliness and loss of social connectivity to the forefront of conversations around mental health. The mandatory social distancing and stay-at-home orders only confirmed what we already knew: close bonds are vital to our well-being. But just how harmful is it to be lonely?
Socialization influences health
Loneliness in the United States has always been known, but recent years has really emphasized just how harmful it can be on our health. In fact, one study found it can have the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Researchers Debra Umberson and Jennifer Karas Montez at the University of Texas at Austin found that socialization influences health behaviorally, psychosocially, and physiologically. Spending quality time with friends or loved ones is not just good for the soul – it benefits your overall health.
Feeling lonely is more common than we think. A 2020 survey conducted by Cigna found three in five Americans report feeling lonely or isolated from others – a significant rise from 2018. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, twenty-two percent of adults in the United States reported feeling symptoms of social isolation.
Benefits of social connectivity
As humans, it is our innate nature to socialize and connect with others. Forming bonds with others is what allows us to feel seen and valued.
Supportive social ties have been found to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones. Strong social connections have also been found to positively influence health related behaviors – such as increased exercise and healthier eating habits.
People who feel more connected to others also have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Studies also show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, and are more trusting and cooperative. In other words, it’s our connectedness to our community and others that generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being.
Older adults and social isolation
While anyone could feel the impacts of social isolation, older adults face significant risks when it comes to the impacts of loneliness, putting them in higher risk for health concerns.
One study of 1,896 seniors over the age of 65 in the UK found that one in five will have a conversation with no more than just three people over the span of an entire week. With distancing and telecommunicating still being implemented due to the lingering effects of the pandemic, older adults may struggle more with socializing and making strong connections.
Feeling lonely is a state of mind – and doesn’t necessarily mean you’re actually alone. In other words, it occurs when there is an emotional longing for human relationships that is unfulfilled. Everyone has felt lonely at times; taking steps to add social connectivity through new social connections in your life can have enormous benefits on your overall health.
If you’re feeling like your social life has gone by the wayside…
The Maxim at Home team is here to help
Our mission is to redefine independence by providing you compassionate support you can trust. For more information on how MAH can assist you and your family, explore MAH’s In-Home Companion Services near you, or call to speak to one of our caring Advisors: 1-844-624-5646
2020 Report: Loneliness and the Workplace . Cigna, https://www.cigna.com/static/www-cigna-com/docs/about-us/newsroom/studies-and-reports/combatting-loneliness/cigna-2020-loneliness-report.pdf.
Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB (2010) Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Med 7(7): e1000316. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316
Seppala, Dr. Emma. “Connectedness & Health: The Science of Social Connection.” The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, 19 July 2022, http://ccare.stanford.edu/uncategorized/connectedness-health-the-science-of-social-connection-infographic/.
Study Finds. “Lonely Lives: Alarming Number of Seniors Go Entire Week without Talking to Anyone.” Study Finds, 10 May 2022, https://www.studyfinds.org/lonely-lives-alarming-number-of-seniors-go-entire-week-without-talking-to-anyone/.