The Loneliness Epidemic: 5 Ways to Feel Better

November 29, 2023

A man sits at a table isolated, depicting the loneliness epidemic

Loneliness is a universal experience, yet its manifestation can vary significantly from person to person. While some people can be alone without experiencing loneliness, others may feel a sense of isolation even in the company of others. Read on to learn more about the epidemic of loneliness enveloping the United States and find discover how you can connect with compassionate and evidence-based care.

The Loneliness Epidemic 2023

With a global loneliness crisis escalating post-pandemic, the risks associated with social disconnection have been likened to the danger of smoking 15 cigarettes daily in a recent advisory by the U.S. Surgeon General. Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report reveals that roughly half of U.S. adults experienced measurable levels of loneliness.

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy associates inadequate social connections with a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% elevated risk of stroke, and a 50% higher likelihood of developing dementia for older adults. He emphasizes the profound impact of societal changes, technological advancements, and the evolving nature of human interaction on this growing crisis.

The report highlights a concerning decline in face-to-face interactions across all age groups, with young adults aged 15 to 24 experiencing a staggering 70% reduction in social engagement with friends. Murthy notes the concerning trend of using social media as a substitute for in-person relationships, often resulting in lower-quality connections.

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Loneliness is not unique to the United States, but rather a global challenge that’s inflamed by diminishing participation in community organizations. As a response, the advisory aims to draw immediate attention to the issue and advocates for a transformative cultural shift towards fostering connection, from strengthening social infrastructure and reforming digital environments to mobilizing the health sector and furthering research in this emerging field.

This comprehensive report aligns with previous studies warning of the mental and physical health risks associated with loneliness. This study finds a higher likelihood of dementia in socially isolated older adults. A second study shows that it’s possible to reduce this risk through various evidence-based interventions.

A woman sits in a char alone, showing signs of depression, a result of the loneliness epidemic

What Caused the Loneliness Epidemic?

The loneliness epidemic has deep roots intertwined with the rapid pace of societal changes, technological advancements, and changes in how people connect. The dramatic pace of life in recent decades, characterized by increased mobility, frequent job changes, and the influence of transformative technologies, has significantly shifted the landscape of human interaction.

Even in a seemingly interconnected world, the quality of connections has taken a hit. Loneliness isn’t solely determined by the number of people around, but is profoundly influenced by the depth and authenticity of these connections. The surge in online interactions, especially among the younger demographic, often replaces in-person relationships but tends to offer lower-quality connections. The digital era has ushered in a reliance on social media as a means of connection, and now many potential adverse effects on mental health are beginning to emerge.

Dr. Murthy points out the dual role of technology, acknowledging its positive aspect as a means for some young people to find online communities. He also warns against the pitfalls, though, especially in the case of social media that prioritizes online engagement at the expense of in-person interactions.

As the loneliness epidemic is not confined to the borders of the United States, Dr. Murthy highlights a global shift away from community participation, such as in faith groups or recreational leagues. The decline in these traditional forces that once brought people together has paved the way for a society that is more isolated, with fewer opportunities for meaningful connections.

The loneliness epidemic, then, is a complex interplay of societal, technological, and cultural factors that is not caused by any one variable. So… what can you do to fight back if you are affected by these issues?

5 Ways to Stop Feeling Lonely

Although everyone experiences loneliness in different ways, there are some general steps you can take to alleviate feelings of isolation and solitude:

  1. Acknowledge your loneliness
  2. Open up to those around you
  3. Strategize for change
  4. Join a club or take up a hobby
  5. Engage with professional support

1) Acknowledge your loneliness

Instead of expending energy resisting or suppressing your emotions, recognize that feeling lonely is a common human experience. Keep in mind that experiencing loneliness doesn’t reflect inadequacy or weakness –it is a universal aspect of the human condition.

Research indicates that labeling your emotions can diminish their intensity. Assigning a name to your loneliness can help your brain in better understanding your feelings, potentially providing immediate relief. Acknowledging and labeling your emotions is a proactive initial step toward easing the burden of loneliness and embracing your shared humanity.

2) Open up to those around you

While you may be surrounded by people, it’s possible not to have meaningful connections with them or to feel a lack of empathy. If this resonates with you, consider confiding in someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, family member, colleague, or another person in your life. Face-to-face communication is not obligatory for this step. You can express yourself through a text message or a message on social media if you feel more comfortable with this approach.

Sharing feelings of loneliness can be daunting, even though many of us have experienced the phenomenon. To streamline the process, take a moment to consider what you want to convey. You might discover that the person you confide in has encountered similar emotions, engendering a sense of normalcy and understanding that could contribute to alleviating the weight of loneliness.

3) Strategize for change

When addressing loneliness, it’s often helpful to discern whether the optimal solution lies in resolving the external situation or in managing your internal emotional response.

Consider whether reaching out to someone is the most effective way to confront the loneliness or if a better approach involves first tending to your emotional well-being. For example, if you find yourself alone on a Friday night with the option to connect with friends or family, initiating contact is one possible solution. Engaging in a conversation or inviting someone to spend time with you could make a significant difference. That said, if your attempts to connect go unanswered, it might worsen feelings of loneliness. In such instances, it may be more beneficial to shift your focus inward and address the emotional impact of solitude rather than persisting in seeking external connections.

Explore healthy coping strategies to improve your emotional state. Activities like drawing, writing, or gardening offer solitary yet fulfilling experiences that can positively influence your feelings of loneliness. By developing a thoughtful plan that considers both external and internal aspects, you empower yourself to navigate loneliness in a holistic and constructive manner.

4) Join a club or take up a hobby

In addition to rekindling connections with individuals from your past, consider broadening your social circle by engaging with new people. Explore community activities that align with your interests, from book clubs and community service projects to hiking groups and business societies. The diversity of options in California should provide many opportunities to connect with people near you.

Check your local newspaper or explore platforms like Meetup to learn about community happenings. Attend events and actively initiate conversations with several people. By attending different events or joining multiple clubs, you increase your chances of meeting diverse individuals and expanding your social network. Making this effort can be a valuable step in fostering new connections and enriching your social life.

Immersing yourself in creative pursuits can elevate your mood and cultivate a present-focused mindset. This shift minimizes distressing thoughts like fearing perpetual loneliness or ruminating on negative past experiences, such as hurtful remarks.

If you haven’t yet explored hobbies, prioritize finding one that resonates with you. Experiment with activities until you find something that genuinely captivates you and brings you joy. Engaging in hobbies not only offers a fulfilling way to spend your time but also contributes positively to your mental well-being, providing a constructive outlet for expression and enjoyment.

5) Engage with professional support

If you find yourself grappling with loneliness and you have been unsuccessful in all your attempts to address it, consider seeking professional help. Engaging in conversations with a mental health professional can not only facilitate more meaningful connections with others but also provide you with effective coping strategies to manage loneliness in a healthy manner.

Beyond this, a therapist can assist in uncovering the root causes of your loneliness, whether it stems from relationship struggles, post-breakup feelings, or coexisting loneliness and depression. If depression contributes to your sense of isolation, professionals may recommend CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or, in certain cases, prescribe medications like SSRI antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) to address symptoms.

You should consider seeking professional help if you’ve been managing loneliness through unhealthy habits like excessive drinking or reliance on food for comfort, as these behaviors can exacerbate loneliness in the long run and introduce new complications. 

Call 844-413-0009 if you need immediate assistance.

FAQs

What is the epidemic of loneliness?

The epidemic of loneliness refers to the widespread and growing phenomenon of people feeling socially disconnected and isolated, often triggering adverse impacts on mental and physical health.

What is the solution to the loneliness epidemic?

Addressing the loneliness epidemic involves adopting steps to maintain social connections, engage in healthy activities, and manage emotions and psychiatric symptoms. Staying connected with friends, family, and the community plays a key role in combating loneliness and its associated health risks.

What causes someone to isolate themselves?

Various factors can contribute to social isolation, including mental health issues, changes in life circumstances, and external factors like the COVID-19 pandemic and its ramifications. Understanding the root causes – depression, anxiety, or life transitions, for instance – is essential to address and support individuals who may be isolating themselves.

How do you deal with chronic loneliness?

Dealing with chronic loneliness involves taking proactive steps, such as getting to know people in your area, participating in social activities, and seeking professional support if needed. Building meaningful connections and engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment can contribute to alleviating chronic loneliness

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