The Health Risks of Loneliness

Friendly Hello Thumbnail

Do you suffer from loneliness?

Experts suggest that we may feel more lonely now than ever. While advances in technology may allow us to be increasingly connected, these “conveniences” may, instead, be taking the place of face-to-face time. This can result in us losing the development of truly deep connections.

Risk of Loneliness Higher Than Risk of Obesity?

When loneliness persists, it can have profound effects on your body. Research has suggested that long-term effects of loneliness may be worse for you than carrying around extra weight and increases your risk of premature death by 14 percent.

Other Ill Effects of Loneliness

  • Mental health and loneliness go hand in hand with depression.
  • Risk of dementia and/or memory loss increases.
  • Sleep can become fragmented.
  • Feelings of isolation develop, which can also cause increased inflammation – the kind that causes arthritis and heart disease.

Loneliness Lifters

A Friend Saying Hello
A Friendly Hello

If you find yourself living a lonely life, you may have to learn to step outside your comfort zone to make important and healthful changes. This applies whether you are building up existing relationships or creating new ones.

Friendship requires effort, but the comfort friendship can provide makes the investment worthwhile.

How to Nurture Friendship

  • Reach out. Make an unexpected phone call or email, just to say hello and “how are you doing”?
  • Offer to help someone in need. This can come in many forms, but offering to help someone can be as simple as giving someone a ride, picking up groceries, babysitting, etc. The key is not to do it for pay, but out of the kindness of your heart. If someone tries to insist you pay, tell them they can “pay it forward“! (Returning your good deed to them with a good deed they perform for someone else).
  • Be positive. Negativity and criticism pull people down. Use kindness and approval. Nonstop complaining strains a friendship and often breaks it completely.
  • Listen. Ask your friend’s what is happening in their lives. Let them know you are paying close attention when they speak. Physical gestures such as direct eye contact, body language and reaffirming comments prove that you are truly listening. When a friend shares emotions that go along with a difficult time in their life, be empathetic.
  • Extend and accept invitations. Invite a friend out for coffee, lunch or a drink. When someone invites you to a gathering or a friendly meeting, accept their offer.
  • Respect boundaries. Don’t over-tax your friends with your own needs. Remember that being a true friend requires give and take.

Find New Friends

  • Attend events. Get together with a group at a hospital, place of worship, museum, charitable group or other organization. You can form strong connections when you work with people who have mutual interests.
  • Take up a new interest. Take a college course to meet people who have similar interests. Join a class at a local gym, senior center or fitness facility.
  • Join a faith group. Take advantage of special activities at your church or synagogue.
  • Take a walk. Put on some good walking shoes and keep your eyes open. Chat with neighbors who also are out and about, or head to a popular park and strike up a conversation there.

Friends have lunch and a drink

It’s also important to remember that feeling lonely and being alone are two different things. You can feel lonely in a crowd, just as you can feel content when you’re all by yourself. Having a solid support system in your life gives you strength to be able to navigate the alone times with ease or even pleasure.

When you do find yourself with some “alone-time”, consider the time a valuable asset and make the most of it; in other words, invest in yourself. Rest and recharge, pursue a hobby, meditate, indulge in a daydream or listen to your favorite music. Do not sit brooding and feeling sorry for yourself.

Mother Teresa Quote About Loneliness
Mother Teresa Quote About Loneliness

Author: Jeni

Certified by the Professional School of Fitness and Nutrition in March, 1995; honored for exemplary grades. Practicing fitness and nutrition for over 20 years. Featured in the Feb. 1994 issue of "Shape" magazine. Featured in Collage in the spring issue of 1995 Low fat recipe's published in Taste of Home, Quick Cooking, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, among others. September, 2001: Featured in "Winning The War on Cholesterol" By Rodale Publishing