What are Loneliness and Isolation?
Every one of us feels lonely sometimes, but long periods of loneliness and social isolation can have a negative impact on your mental and physical wellbeing. Common signs of loneliness include:
- mental health conditions – anxiety, depression, panic attacks or paranoia
- physical symptoms – headaches, increased aches and pains, worsening of medical conditions or illnesses
- sudden weight gains or loss, loss of appetite
- smoking or use of medications or drugs or increased alcohol consumption
- lack of motivation or low energy
- difficulties sleeping
- feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or thoughts of suicide.
Loneliness is feeling sad about being by yourself, particularly over a long period of time. Loneliness can sometimes be felt even when surrounded by people or in relationships. Isolation is being separated from your environment and other people.
Loneliness and isolation become more common as we age. Some reasons you might feel lonely or isolated as you get older are:
- losing your partner, spouse or friends through relocation or death
- a lack of close family ties and living alone
- feeling like you don’t belong and difficulties meeting new people
- feelings of loss or grief
- poor physical health or frailty
- mental health conditions like depression or anxiety
- due to social stigma or rejection from others and not getting out to meet people
- inability to participate in activities due to mobility, transport issues or illness
- a lack of purpose or meaning in life, retirement from work
- reduced connections with your culture of origin or language barriers.
There are many ways to get connected and overcome loneliness and isolation.
Connect with friends and family
Staying in regular contact with loved ones can prevent loneliness and isolation. Technology can help you to stay in touch if your family doesn’t live nearby. Text messaging, social networking sites, email, the Internet are all great ways to stay connected.
Get out and about
If you can, regularly getting out for social functions, visiting friends, exercise or simply doing your shopping can help to overcome loneliness. If you have mobility or transport issues, there are services that can assist.
Look after yourself
Sometimes when you’re feeling down, you might forget to take care of yourself. Remember to eat healthily and exercise regularly. It’s also important to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
Get involved in your community
Older people who are involved in social or educational activities are less likely to feel lonely. You might want to join a club, learn a new skill or try a new hobby. Visit your local library or community center to find out about activities, courses, and clubs.
Helping others is a great way to get out and about, give something back to your community and meet new people.
Consider getting a pet
Pets are wonderful companions and can provide comfort and support during times of stress, illness or isolation. Contact your local veterinarian or pet shop for advice on finding a pet that’s suitable for you.
We can all work together to create socially inclusive communities and to be caring and accepting of others.