We have all possibly experienced the effects of social isolation and loneliness, myself included. It easy to think we are alone in that feeling. The truth is: nearly half of 20,000 U.S. adults reported they experience loneliness sometimes, according to a 2018 national survey by Cigna.
Social isolation has dozens of mental health risks that need to be addressed and managed . This article take a deeper dive into some of those effects and how you might be able to manage it.
What are the Effects of Social Isolation?
Social isolation means the lack of social connections, such as when you are alone in a new location and don’t know anyone, which may often lead to feelings of loneliness. The effects of social isolation are serious, particularly for adults aged 50 and older. According to the CDC, some effects of social isolation and loneliness include:
- Social isolation can significantly raise an individual’s risk of premature death from all causes. This rivals the risks of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity
- Social isolation was related to a couple of 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
- Poor social connections (indicated by social isolation or loneliness) was linked to a 29% increased risk of a heart condition and a 32% increased risk of stroke
- Loneliness was related to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide
- Loneliness among heart failure patients was related to almost 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits
According to the University of Chicago, humans are a social species. We truly do need others to survive, or it might lead you to do some crazy things such as almost shaving your head or other things that you otherwise wouldn’t have done.
How do you Manage Social Isolation?
Due to the many serious health and mental effects of social isolation, you might be wondering how to reduce the risks and manage it before it becomes a significant issue. Some ways to manage social isolation effects include:
Exercising has been well known to reduce stress and boosts endorphins. This encourages you to feel good and decreases your stress hormones. Going on runs or just exercising from your home will greatly help you reduce some of the feelings of social isolation.
2. Volunteer/join in social clubs
Volunteering and joining social groups is an excellent way to meet and build connections with new people as well as reducing the effects of social isolation. Look online, at your local library, or flyers posted throughout your community to find a service to volunteer and give back for, or an engaging club to partake in.
3. Accept it Accepting that you are lonely might be difficult since there is a stigma around it, as though you are admitting defeat. Yet to manage social isolation effects, accepting your feelings of loneliness instead of resisting them will help take away the power loneliness has and ease your happiness.
Our experience with loneliness
I know all too well how rough social isolation can be. In fact, I spent a few months in a foreign country with no way of contact anyone back home.
Why in the world would I do that?
Well, I make a documentary series about helping others. I made a video where I threw a dart at a map and lived wherever it landed for as long as it took to change a stranger’s life. Unfortunately for me, my plans went sideways when I landed at my new home…