The Loneliness Epidemic Plus 5 Ways to Combat It

Blog Lifestyle The Loneliness Epidemic Plus 5 Ways to Combat It

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12.3.2023 0 comments

Loneliness is a great problem than ever before—and it doesn’t seem like it’ll go away any time soon unless we do something about it ourselves!

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, loneliness was a problem many mental health experts were aware of, but didn’t place high priority on combatting. However, during 2020 and 2021, it became so much more prevalent that it earned itself a nickname: the “loneliness epidemic”.

Research turned up significant prevalence of loneliness, and its effects proved far more wide-reaching than ever realized.

Thanks to that, we are now aware of the problem and can take measures to combat it.

That’s exactly what we’ll do with this post. First, we’ll look at the cold, hard data surrounding loneliness and examine who is most at risk or affected by it. Then we’ll look at the consequences of loneliness and how it can seriously impair your health. Finally, we’ll share insights into how you can actively combat it in your own life and the lives of others.

By the end of this post, you’ll be far more aware of and capable of dealing with loneliness.

The Statistics of Loneliness

During the pandemic when people were locked down in their homes, the world became ever-more aware of just how common loneliness was. A lot of research went into determining how great a problem was—and the answer proved surprising.

According to the Canadian Social Survey sent out in 2021 [1]:

  • 23% of young people aged 15 to 24 said they frequently or always felt lonely. That’s nearly 1 in ever 4!

  • 15% of people aged 25 to 34 experienced loneliness frequently or always.

  • 14% of seniors aged 75 and older frequently or always felt lonely.

  • 9% of people ages 65 to 74 felt lonely.

  • 24% of people who lived alone experienced loneliness.

  • 49% of people with poor mental health and lower levels of life satisfaction reported frequent feelings of loneliness.

In the US, a Gallup Poll [2] revealed similar issues:

  • 24% of those under the age of 30 suffer high levels of daily loneliness.

  • 27% of those earning under $24,000 per year experience loneliness frequently.

  • 33% of those experiencing daily loneliness have been or are currently being treated for depression.

  • 20% of people living in big cities experience loneliness.

  • 41% of single people report frequent loneliness.

  • New England, in particular, reports the highest rates of loneliness in the country.

These numbers may seem small—just 9% of Canadian adults ages 65 to 74 or 20% of people living in big American cities—but when you realize that population is actually in the millions or tens of millions, it starts to take on a whole new dangerous shape.

The Dangers of Loneliness

It should come as no surprise that loneliness doesn’t just affect your mood. It’s not just a transient feeling that goes away on its own with no side effects. The effects are very real—and, if it persists, can be very serious.

The CDC has shared a list of health risks of loneliness and social isolation [3, 4] among older adults in particular, but many of the symptoms and consequences can also affect younger people and adults. The list includes some pretty serious impacts:

  • Higher stroke and heart disease risk

  • Higher prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes

  • Increasing frequency of anxiety and depression

  • Higher addiction rates

  • Higher rates of self-harm and suicidality

  • Greater prevalence of dementia and accelerated cognitive decline

  • Higher risk of premature death from all causes

  • Higher risk of earlier death in general

Pretty clear to see how dangerous social isolation and loneliness can be, isn’t it?

The good news is that there are things that you can do about it, ways you can combat the problem—both in your own life and the lives of others around you who may be feeling lonely, too.

5 Ways to Combat Loneliness in Yourself and Others Today

The loneliness epidemic has become so serious in recent years that the Surgeon General of the United States has released an advisory on how to deal with it. This advisory [5] provides insights and advice for governments from the national to local level, health workers, healthcare systems, public health services, researchers, schools, workplaces, and community-level organizations.

And, of course, advice for individuals like us to combat loneliness in our own lives and those of others around us:

1. Invest time in relationships. Social isolation and loneliness go hand in hand, and both can lead to the very serious side effects listed above. A lack of relationships is precisely what contributes to those feelings of loneliness. The key, therefore, is to invest time (and effort) into your existing relationships—with friends, family, your spouse, kids, etc.—as well as building new relationships.

Yes, building new relationships as an adult can be challenging and time-consuming. But they’re well worth the investment. Those relationships play a significant role in helping to stave off the feelings of isolation and loneliness that are so prevalent in our modern world.

2. Disconnect and engage. One of the biggest challenges to modern relationships is distraction. We have so many things to draw our attention away from the people we’re with—from the TV screens playing in the restaurant or bar around us to our phones binging and buzzing frequently.

It’s absolutely imperative to disconnect from the world around us and engage with the people we’re socializing with. Minimizing distractions will help to improve the quality of your conversations, which in turn improves the quality of the time you’re spending with people. It will make those relationships grow stronger and have a great impact on your social connections.

3. Seek out opportunities to connect with or help others. If people from your work are going out for a drink, take them up on the invitation to go along even if you’d much rather go home and relax. If you’re invited to a local charity effort, toy drive, or weekend event, consider saying “yes” rather than automatically turning it down.

The more opportunities you take to connect with or help others, the more you will build relationships and connections with the people around you and your community. These connections are absolutely vital for staving off feelings of loneliness or isolation.

4. Participate in social and community groups. Take up a group sport. Join a gym. Attend religious ceremonies. Take up a new hobby and engage with people in that community. Join local professional organizations. The more you socialize—particularly in-person—the more you will feel connected to the people who share your interests or passions. That goes a long way toward staving off feelings of isolation.

5. Avoid practices that disconnect you. Spending excessive time gaming or online, engaging in social media, or in front of screens alone will disconnect you from the real-life people around you, the people with whom you want to form those connections. The more “alone” your job or hobbies are, the more you need to make it a point to actively seek out in-person interactions in your daily life, as well as avoiding any practices that disconnect you from the people around you.

Wrapping Up:

The loneliness epidemic has become a far greater problem in recent years, but it doesn’t have to be your problem. Now that you’re aware of how common it is and how dangerous it can be, you can take active steps to combat it.

Use the advice above to help you form stronger connections with the people around you—bonding with your friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances—and you can live a healthy, happy life free of loneliness.








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