Do you remember the song, “One” by Three Dog Night? They sing that ‘one’ as the loneliest number before introducing ‘two’ as being lonely as well, then melodically sing that ‘no’ as the saddest experience. Hmm. Kind of articulates the essence of loneliness!
Did you know that loneliness has become a silent killer? In fact, loneliness has become an epidemic that goes beyond simply being alone. The news headlines are filled with nuances that accompany loneliness in groups such as gender, generational, race, etc. And the list seems to be growing.
The UK’s ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’, is leading the way with current research and statistics on the epidemic of Loneliness, notably amongst the elderly. Evidence collaborated from a network of universities, researchers, and practitioners revealed that over 9 million people in the UK (almost 1/5 of the population) admitted to feeling lonely.
However, loneliness is not reserved for the elderly. Virtually all age groups, generations, and ethnic groups are susceptible to loneliness issues.
In ‘Psychology Today’ (March 2018), Jennifer Latson affirms that the lack of social connection can be a predictor of premature death and that the epidemic of loneliness is only getting worse. Despite controversy over the impact social media has on loneliness, there is clear evidence that meaningful relationships are, hands-down, an effective platform countering the affects loneliness plays on our general wellbeing.
Understandably, the severe impact of social isolation may not be top of mind, especially for those not affected by it. Yet society is ultimately paying a price. Health care costs are just one example. Proactive measures to address this epidemic are slow to evolve and do not appear to be a priority at this time.
Besides a seemingly typical emotional sense of feeling lonely, loneliness in the true sense poses harmful health risks. Were you aware that its impact is similar to those devastating facts known from cigarette smoking?
Furthermore, research is showing loneliness increases:
• mortality by 26%
• risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke
• risk of high blood pressure
• risk of cognitive decline
• chance of developing clinical dementia
• incidence of depression
It is encouraging to know that coaching can play a significant role in addressing this widespread epidemic. Likely, coaching would begin with the person experiencing loneliness. Then becoming curious about his / her interests and / or working with him / her to develop some relevant social skills. These are an example of a few steps in the right direction.