With the advent of social media and the ever-increasing stride towards digital lives - a strange thing has happened: the world has become lonelier. More people are reporting feeling sad lonely or depressed and as of yet - there hasn’t been a solution put forth. A 2017 report even said loneliness was as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Where does that leave us? In the midst of a health crisis?
The answer in Great Britain was to appoint a Minister for Loneliness. Tracey Crouch was appointed to tackle the issue. She acknowledged that lonelieness wasn’t just linked to social media - it was also specifically linked with the elderly population. Around two million people all across England who are aged above 75 live alone. This might seem unproblematic, until you realize that many of these people can go for days or weeks without any social interaction at all. Particularly in the winter, many people stock up on food and avoid leaving their homes. This isn’t even necessarily a tactic of social awkwardness. For many, it’s simply being smart. As they get older, it might be painful to move around.
One of the ways that Tracey Couch will be useful is to see if a National Strategy will help. There are many different small NGOs and organizations that fight mental health stigma and loneliness across local communities - but there aren’t countries that specify it as a main strategy in their health policies. Maybe it’s time for that to change.
Loneliness can affect anyone - and it’s easy for people to hide. In our society of being on phones and choosing to text rather than meet up in person, it’s not surprising to see this issue come to the forefront. Being active can be hard and if you’re an introvert like me, it can be even harder to get out there and work to be social. It can be downright challenging. But people who aren’t lonely live longer, tend to be happier and live fuller lives more presently with the people they love. And if you happen to be an introvert, just remember that enjoying spending time alone and being lonely are two separate things.
Here are some ways you can reach out to lonely people in your community:
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