Monday, December 12, 2016

The Season of giving “time” to the lonely

Studies have shown that nearly 25% of the US population consider themselves “lonely”. Contrary to what we would normally expect, loneliness covers all age groups where no age bracket is immune from feeling lonely.

Loneliness produces unpleasant and distressing feelings where severe and prolonged exposure can affect one’s mental state leading to depression or suicide. It normally occurs when your social network is deficient in either quality or quantity. It is a very subjective experience where you can be “alone without feeling lonely” or can be “alone in a crowd”

Your feelings can range from being anxious, unhappy, hostile, bored, empty, and restless. There are basically three main clusters of lonely people:

1-You feel isolated, different, unloved, inadequate, or friendless.

2-You have negative feelings of depression, sadness, anger, and paranoia.

3-You avoid social contacts and work long hours.

It is strange that the elevated loneliness levels were among the youngest and oldest adults. Late life can be explained by lower income levels, functional limitations and lower level of singles available. Universally, the quantity of relationships (social engagement, # friends, and contact frequency) was a major factor in all age groups.

So if the US has roughly 321 million people, then 25% would be 80 million “lonely” people. Maybe we should make adjustments for the under 10 years old group, but believe it or not, they can experience loneliness and isolation. Just look at the world refugee crisis now.

This Holiday Season would be a great time for all of us who have the means to give ourselves to helping the lonely with our time and concern. It would be a most welcome gift and one day we would appreciate the efforts when we are feeling lonely.

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