[The Epoch Times, January 11, 2023](Reported by Epoch Times reporter Marshall Los Angeles) About 60 percent of Americans now report that they often feel lonely. Some recent surveys reveal that “loneliness” is not only a psychological feeling, but also has a serious impact on people’s physical health.
Laurie Santos, a professor of cognitive science and psychology at Yale University, pointed out in a recent interview with PBS that the current state of loneliness in Americans is so bad that “loneliness” is often talked about as an epidemic. From a public health perspective, therefore, the loneliness epidemic is actually quite damaging.
Loneliness is hurting Americans’ health
Even around the holidays, as many as 55 percent of Americans say they experience the holiday blues, with loneliness as the key reason.
Professor Santes believes that “loneliness” is higher than the obesity rate and the incidence of diabetes. From what we know so far, loneliness impacts people’s bodies and minds and can be a huge health threat.
Debbie Kulick, a columnist for the Pennsylvania-based Pocono Record, recently profiled the late professor John Cacioppo, known as “Dr. Lonely.” His research on the social and health consequences of loneliness shows that self-enclosed loneliness can increase health risks such as neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and even cancer .
Dr. Caciopo is considered a pioneer in the field of social neuroscience, which delved into the boundaries between social experience and biological systems, and was one of the first to identify loneliness as a health crisis. He believes that when loneliness becomes a chronic disease, it increases the probability of death by about 26%, which is about the same as that of obesity and cancer patients.
A study done by Stanford University and related Chinese universities said that loneliness affects people’s physiology. Feeling psychologically unhappy or lonely adds 1.65 years to a person’s biological age. The effect is the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Scientists have discovered that unhappiness causes the small “caps” at the ends of our chromosomes, called telomeres, to get smaller each time a cell divides; shortening of telomeres leads to aging. Persistent loneliness also increases the risk of inflammation and several other diseases.
Another Florida State University study found that loneliness can increase the risk of dementia by 40 percent.
Psychology expert Dr. Meg Arroll told KSTA she has seen an increase in feelings of loneliness, isolation and low mood over the past few years. She believes people are now experiencing a second wave of psychological hardship following the pandemic.
How to help family members get rid of loneliness?
A recent survey by the American Chamber of Commerce found that many cities in the United States have a very high proportion of single-family households, especially Washington DC, where the proportion is close to half. Of course, living alone does not mean lonely, they may have many friends with whom they interact on a daily basis. Still, many people feel lonely without loved ones around them.
When relatives and friends around you have a tendency to feel lonely, timely reminders and support may play a big role in helping them get rid of loneliness. A simple greeting call or a video may have a positive impact on the other party.
Nursing homes in New York and Alabama are trialing robotic pets to help seniors in nursing homes escape loneliness.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that the more positive social interactions people had during the day, the more purposeful they were and the less lonely they felt. Get these interactions by joining groups with shared interests, such as hiking groups, art classes, or health clubs.
Los Angeles-based nutrition psychotherapist and behavior change therapist Jane Anderson, Ph.D., says helping people overcome loneliness starts with identifying what’s causing them to feel lonely.
Anderson believes that there are many reasons why people feel lonely, depression and anxiety are one of them; some people stay at home because they are afraid of going out and getting infected during the pandemic; do not stay at home; some people feel lonely because they are afraid that others will think badly of themselves, and they are unwilling to act with others. They may have “social phobia”; in other families, it may be that husbands and wives have different Some people don’t like each other, and some people don’t like each other. The two parties lack common interests, so they will feel very lonely.
“So it’s about first identifying what the root cause of the loneliness problem is, and then addressing it,” Anderson said.
She suggested: For people with different needs, some can make more friends and participate in more social activities; they can also go to church to meet more people; or talk to people when they go to the grocery store every week; Participate in some fitness activities, for example, go to the park to learn Tai Chi or Falun Gong, and you can also meet many people; or join some different clubs such as climbing clubs. If your English is not good, you can also go to a community college to take classes, and you can make some new friends.
However, Anderson does not recommend spending a lot of time on mobile phones. She believes that this is “phone addiction”, which does not bring real happiness and is a waste of time. ◇
Editor in charge: Fang Ping