We live in a world that is more globally connected by technology with more friends and contacts made via social media, however our levels of loneliness have increased.
A study carried out in the UK in 2012 found that 20% of the elderly population reported feeling lonely. The studies also show that this has an impact on their physical and mental wellbeing.
The benefits of real social contact and physical touch releases protective hormones such as oxytocin which helps to elevate our immune system. Also being in the company of like minded friends helps to boost mood and reduce blood pressure.
Loneliness has a wide range of negative effects such as –
- Periods of depression and suicidal thoughts.
- Risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
- Elevated stress levels and cortisol levels,
- Increase risk of alcohol and drug abuse.
- Linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Neurological effects.
Loneliness has become more common in the USA. When researchers carried out a questionnaire in 1984 participants reported having three close confidants. When the question was asked again in 2004 the most common answer was zero confidants. The rise of the internet and ironically of social media are partially to blame. We seem to have swapped virtual friends for real friendships.
Another study carried out by the University of Pittsburgh revealed that the more time young adults spend on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The more likely they will feel isolated and cut off from society. Real social skills are learnt with real social interaction but these skills are not so well developed, thus resulting in lack of confidence during real world interactions. The reason why people may feel depressed in mood and isolated since exposure to other people’s social media feeds promotes feeling’s of being not good enough and envious. Social media has also been linked to the rise of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
It is possible that people who feel socially isolated turn to social media or it could be the other way around that the increased time spent on social media somehow led to feeling of isolation from the real world.
Researchers believe that it is not the quantity of social interaction that decreases loneliness but it is the quality. Having just three or four close friends is enough to deflect loneliness and reduce the negative health consequences associated with this state of mind.
Forging real life friendship with like minded people is important for our overall wellbeing. Reaching out and engaging with people who show signs of loneliness can substantially benefit that person’s health. Pick up the phone and have verbal conversations rather than just texting since language is more than words. Remember this was what phones were originally designed for, however we seem to do everything but talk on them. When time allows find time to meet up and catch up face to face.
Take time to nuture your friendships, knowing that you have understanding unconditional friends in your corner helps like a protective social blanket.
Sending Love and Blessings x