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Mental Health

Dealing with Loneliness


Anyone can be affected by loneliness, and it can have a major impact on our mental health. Elderly people especially are at risk of suffering from loneliness: according to Age UK, over two million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour, or family member.

However, loneliness can affect anyone, and people can become socially isolated for many reasons, such as injury, age, no longer being the centre of the family or social group, leaving the workplace and retirement, the death of a spouse, family member, or friend, or due to a disability or existing mental health condition, such as social anxiety.

Even seasons can have an effect – it can be particularly difficult to get out and about during a harsh winter, for example. This is known as Seasonal Affected Disorder.

You can be socially isolated without feeling lonely, and you can feel lonely even when surrounded by people. The late comic actor Robin Williams once commented on this feeling: “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone”.

Isolation can also lead to further conditions developing, such as depression and personality disorders. Research has found that people who experienced long-term social isolation were at an increased risk of death, heart disease, strokes, alcoholism, drug abuse, and the onset of dementia, than those who had regular social contact. However, even if you live alone and find it hard to get out and about, there is a lot you can do to reduce the effects of loneliness.

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