Two studies, undertaken independently of each other, were published on Monday. One showed that living alone increased risk of heart disease and death. The other showed that loneliness increased risk of death and functional decline.
Now, living alone does not necessarily mean that you are lonely. Lots of people choose to live alone because they enjoy the peace and quiet of having their own space. Many more, however, do not choose to be alone, and for these people loneliness is a real issue.
Before now loneliness was mostly seen as a social issue. These studies have shown that living alone can cause medical problems which are putting financial stress on the health care system. Now that there is money involved, it seems likely that the powers that be will take action to try and reduce people’s feelings of loneliness. Those most likely to be affected are Australians over 75, one third of who are living alone.
But why, when we have so much around us, are people becoming so lonely that it makes them ill? Until recently it was common practice for families to stay together. There could be up to four generations living under one roof. Nowadays in Australia this is rarely the case. So why have we tossed aside a system which brought us together?
Assuming we can’t change the world in a few weeks, what else can you do if you are feeling lonely or isolated? Research has shown that getting involved with social media can help you to feel more connected and happier. Perhaps the answer lies in Facebook after all. You don’t have to connect with the people you know – you can use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs to link up with common-interest groups, whether they are for a hobby, a television series you enjoy, or for learning and practicing foreign languages.
Loneliness is a health risk, so try to get out and interact with people on a daily basis. Join a book club, volunteer at a community organisation, or just log on to Facebook. It’s like taking a vitamin pill for the soul.
To find out more read the news article Living alone causes health risks.
Have your say
Do you think that loneliness is down to the individual to fix, or should family and friends be stepping in? If you live alone have you ever considered living with a friend to share rent and company? And do you really think loneliness can make you sick?