Loneliness is a feeling that usually happens when people are actually alone, not in physical proximity to others enjoying social activities together. Some people may also feel lonely when they are with others who they don’t have a spark with or a feeling of connection.
Often elders can feel lonely as life changes with age can reduce social circles and opportunities for engaging with others regularly. Whatever the age, surveys show that loneliness is increasing in society—even before the pandemic left many people unable to spend time together for fear of spreading illness.
A 2019 Cigna survey found 61% (or three in five) of Americans reported feeling lonely—up from 54% in 2018. This study found a greater percentage of millennials felt lonely than Baby Boomers. Another surprise was more men felt lonely than women.
A University of Michigan poll in 2019 found that 1 in 3 adults between ages 50 to 80 feel they lack companionship and 1 in 4 feel isolated. People living with health problems were more likely to feel lonely, according to this poll, and those living alone were more likely to feel lonely.
Health Impacts of Loneliness
The United States Health Resources & Services Administration states that “loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” They also report that there is a 45% increased risk of mortality in seniors who report feeling lonely.
Numerous studies have found a connection between feelings of loneliness and depression, heart disease, dementia, and recovering from other illnesses. Some researchers have even said there is “an epidemic of loneliness.”
The good news is that loneliness can be possibly cured one person at a time through building strong connections.
If you are concerned about a loved one being lonely, the first step is to reach out. People can make friends throughout life, not just in school or at work. A professional caregiver can become a close friend, especially when there is a good match based on common interests.
In our new video on Facebook and other social media channels, we discuss the problem of loneliness and how it can be addressed.