Did you know that 1 in 4 Belgians feels socially isolated? And that 1 in 5 admits to feeling alone? That’s a problem, because we’re social beings; we need other people in order to feel good ourselves. Lonely people suffer from noticeably more health problems, both physical and psychological. Luckily, though, you can arm yourself – and others – against loneliness.
What is loneliness?
Loneliness is the feeling of being alone in the world. It means being literally without companionship. But there’s a difference between being on your own and feeling lonely.
- There are different sorts of loneliness
There is social isolation, and there is emotional loneliness. What’s the difference? The socially isolated are people who have less contact with others than they’d really like. Emotional loneliness, on the other hand, means you’ve got other people around you, but feel no connection with them.
- Loneliness is a personal thing
Some older people don’t have much contact with friends or family but they’re perfectly happy. Some people might see plenty of visitors but nevertheless feel alone in the world.
How loneliness affects health
- Social contact reduces the risk of dying
According to an article in the Huffington Post, loneliness causes changes in the cells in our bodies. White blood cells fight less hard against viruses and other infections, which makes us more receptive to illness. Social isolation increases your risk of dying by 14%.
Bron: De Morgen
- Outgoing older people have better health
Loneliness and infectious illnesses reinforce each other. Infectious agents can cause brain symptoms that cause people to become more withdrawn. We could call it a vicious circle.
- Chronic loneliness causes high blood pressure
High blood pressure is dangerous for older people. It can lead to heart disease, loss of sight; can affect the kidneys and brain function.
5 tips to prevent loneliness in older people
Nobody likes talking about loneliness. But it’s important for older people to sound the alarm in good time. Their surroundings can help, of course, but in the end older people must take it upon themselves to break out from loneliness. Here are 5 tips for older people for what they can do themselves to combat loneliness.
- Maintain social networks
- It’s important that older people keep in touch with friends and family. For example, they could make a list of people they haven’t seen for a while and whom they’d like to go and see.Help the
- Help the neighboursFrom odd jobs to housework to
- From odd jobs to housework to baby-sitting the neighbours’ children. Older people who from time to time do things for other people feel less lonely.A dog as a companion
- A dog as a companionDogs are very sensitive to people. Above all, they’re great company. Walking the dog is a great time to have a chat with other dog owners.
- Dogs are very sensitive to people. Above all, they’re great company. Walking the dog is a great time to have a chat with other dog owners.Visit a discussion group
- Visit a discussion group
- For older people who have lost a loved one, this can be a new way to meet people. And to get things off their chests…!
- Do some voluntary work
- This is a real win-win situation. Older people can share their knowledge, and meet new people.
See if loneliness is affecting your life. Take the test…