There is much suffering in the world - physical, material, mental. The suffering of some can be blamed on the greed of others. The material and physical suffering is suffering from hunger, from homelessness, from all kinds of diseases. But the greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, having no one. (Mother Teresa)
Loneliness not only feels bad, it can also be harmful to your health. And it's not just an old person malady.
Research shows a lack of social connections or friends can be as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Friendships and social networks not only have an impact on reducing the risk of death or developing certain diseases, but they also help individuals to recover when they become ill.
Preventing and reducing loneliness is vital for older people to remain as independent as they can be. Lonely people are more likely to:
Some of the increased risk of disease may come from changes in behaviour: people who feel isolated may not have friends or family encouraging them to eat right, exercise, or see a doctor.
However, new research suggests that loneliness can also directly harm our health. Research has found that loneliness may alter the tendency of cells in the immune system to promote inflammation. Inflammation is necessary to help our bodies heal from injury. But when it goes on too long, it may raise the risk of chronic diseases.
People who feel lonely may also have weakened immune cells that have trouble fighting off viruses and infections.
People often associate loneliness with getting older. But you can feel lonely at any age – with social media preventing younger people from connecting in real life.
The government recently announced that charities and community groups will get £20 million of new funding to help isolated people and those suffering from loneliness. The funding will go to support and expand programmes that bring people together and are proving to benefit communities. There's also a great campaign to help the lonely, particularly as they get older, the Campaign to End Loneliness. Take a look or watch the video below.