Loneliness- Not Just an Older Person’s Issue
Many research attributes loneliness with older people and while this is a common issue, it is important not to forget that everyone, at any age, can experience loneliness that can have a real impact on their lives. In a recent online survey by Eurofound, found that despite comparatively high overall levels of life satisfaction and optimism in Ireland, women aged 18-34 here report being the loneliest in the EU (April 2020).
What is loneliness?
“Loneliness is defined as a distressing feeling that accompanies the perception that one’s social needs are not being met by the quantity or especially the quality of one’s social relationships” Pinquart M, Sorensen S. 2001).
Everyone will feel lonely from time to time. Feelings of loneliness are personal and will be experienced in different ways. For example people can live relatively solitary lives but not feel lonely. You have many friends but you still may experience feelings of being alone. So, it can really depend on how you view your situation and how it is impacting the way you are living your life.
Impact of Loneliness
Research tells us that loneliness can impact on our physical, mental, and cognitive wellbeing. Loneliness not only increases depressive symptoms but also increases perceived stress, fear of negative evaluation, anxiety, and anger, and diminishes optimism and self-esteem (Cacioppo JT et al, 2006) . Research tells us that chronic loneliness may disrupt sleep.
If you feel loneliness is impacting your physical and mental wellbeing. Here are some tips and ways to help you manage loneliness.
Tips to manage loneliness:
Making new connections
If you are feeling lonely because of a lack of satisfying social contact in your life, you could try to meet more, or different people.
Join a club
This is a great way to meet new people and to take part of something that you will be interested in.
Tip: look up the local colleges for short courses. They have interesting short courses on sewing, yoga, woodwork, languages.
If you are able to, volunteering is a good way of meeting people. Helping others can also really help improve your mental health. It is also a good idea to check that you will receive adequate support from the organisation you are volunteering at.
Seek support online
Join an online community like Aware www.Aware.ie. These communities can provide a place to listen and share with others who have similar experiences. Make sure to speak to the group organiser to see if it is the right space for you.
Strengthen existing relationships
Particularly, during the pandemic we might have lost connection with our social circles. Maybe it is a time to reach out to them. Think of different ways that you could reconnect, for example, send a card, email, phone. Set realistic goals for yourself. What friends could I reach out to that will be nurturing for me.
See a therapist
Talking to a therapist/counsellor can help you explore and understand your feelings of loneliness and can help you create new ways to help you achieve positive outcomes. For example, therapy can provide a non judgmental space for you to understand what is stopping you from building positive relationships in your life and help you build new skills.
If you would like to speak to a Psychotherapist to find out how they can help you please email info@citytherapy or phone on 0863788002.
Cacioppo JT, Hawkley LC, Ernst JM, et al. Loneliness within a nomological net: An evolutionary perspective. Journal of Research in Personality. 2006;40:1054–1085.
Pinquart M, Sorensen S. Influences on loneliness in older adults: A meta-analysis. Basic and Applied Social Psychology. 2001;23:245–266.