Leading on from our previous blog post to mark Loneliness Awareness Week, today we’re going to be discussing what loneliness is and why we can experience it.
Loneliness is a term used to describe the feeling of an absence of rewarding social contact and relationships. It’s not the same as being physically alone; some people prefer their own company and are content without much contact with other people, however, others would find this way of living a lonely experience. Similarly, some people may have lots of social contact – they may be in a relationship or part of a loving family, but still feel lonely. Loneliness can cause people to feel empty, alone and unwanted; those who experience it often crave human contact but can find it difficult to form relationships with others.
But what causes loneliness? Well, many different things can lead to feeling lonely, and people can feel this way for different reasons. Life transitions can sometimes lead to loneliness such as bereavement, a relationship break-up, retirement, a new job, starting university or relocating. Some people experience loneliness seasonally, for example during holidays such as Christmas. There is evidence to suggest that particular circumstances can also make people more vulnerable to feeling lonely. For example, if you: have no friends or family, have a difficult relationship with family, are a single parent, are part of a minority group living somewhere without others from a similar background, have a disability, have experienced abuse.
Loneliness is an unpleasant experience in itself, but it can also negatively impact physical and mental health. It can lead to substance abuse, altered brain function, a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease, antisocial behaviour, cardiovascular disease and stokes, poor memory, feelings of depression, thoughts of suicide, higher stress levels and poor decision-making.
If you are experiencing loneliness at the moment, take a read of our blog post where we have shared some tips to combat it HERE.