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Loneliness: A Public Health Crisis

A recent study published in Fox News authored by Julia Naftulin indicates that loneliness is now thought to be more of a danger to society than obesity in terms of health. The article discusses how although each of us feels lonely from time to time, a new study shows that feeling lonely is on the rise and the dangers of feeling lonely are a major health threat.

A new study conducted by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University was discussed at length in Natfulin’s article. The study showed feeling lonely and/or isolated can lead to premature death—in fact, those with social connections decreased their risk of an early death by 50%. Still, a number of things can affect how often or deeply a person experiences loneliness. People who suffer from depression or anxiety are likely to feel isolated on a grander scale, since loneliness is a state of mind, says Dr. Galynker, adding that a happy person with five social interactions a day may feel connected, while a depressed person with the same five social interactions may feel isolated and disconnected from others.

Although our culture in the US accepts and normalizes living alone and being independent, most other cultures do not. That is to say, many live with extended family their entire life. Further, the role of social media in this loneliness crisis is huge. Not only do we tend to feel left out or not “as good as” due to social media, many individuals are triggered into feelings of isolation and loneliness that are not healthy at all due to the influx of the Internet and online communication.

Determining if you are feeling excessively lonely in such a way that warrants help may seem difficult. But research suggests that if you turn to others to alleviate your loneliness than most likely you’re ding ok. But if you isolate further or don’t feel like confiding your feelings of looniness to others than it might be good to seek professional help.  Many people feel insecure and nervous about reaching out to others for fear of rejection. Awareness of those around us is key in solving this problem. Including those in our life in real time interactions and, making time for those who we now to be more isolated can help break the cycle of loneliness in our society and alleviate this oncoming public health crisis.