Lonely and blue: Social isolation bad for mental health

Lonely and blue: Social isolation bad for mental health

Research shows correlation between loneliness and mental health problems such as depression, and both thrive on each other. A body of studies also points out that a sense of belongingness plays a crucial role in maintaining mental health.

A study by researchers from Brigham Young University in Utah shows that loneliness and social isolation can turn out to be a big public health issue, on par with obesity and substance abuse. “The effect of this is comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously,” the study’s lead author, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, said in a statement. “We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously.”

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 3 million participants and found that loneliness, social isolation, and living alone pose a greater risk for mortality among young populations than older people.

Studies have shown that loneliness and social isolation can have a deteriorating impact on one’s physical and mental health. Many experts say technology and social media are pushing people away from forming basic relationships in flesh and blood. More Americans are living alone and loneliness is said to affect more than one-third of adults in the U.S.

In their book, The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century, psychiatrists Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz describe America’s obsession with living alone and the resultant cost to their psychological health. The book begins with: “Americans in the twenty-first century devote more technology to staying connected than any society in history, yet somehow the devices fail us: Studies show that we feel increasingly alone.”

Olds, professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, claims that when people are excluded from the society and don’t feel like they fit in, they take a “step back.” That’s when they start sending out signals of loneliness such as “Go away” or “I don’t need you.” This in fact is a verbal call for help.

People who are lonely actually start exhibiting odd behavior. Because they feel left out of the society, they become very hostile. Furthermore, because they isolate themselves, they have no one to talk to, and can lose their mental balance. Olds also says loneliness and psychiatric conditions such as paranoia, anxiety and depression are closely connected.

Groups such as the poor, the unemployed, immigrants, lone parents as well as those with long-term disabilities face the severe risk of being socially secluded. If an individual feels like he doesn’t belong to a certain group and can’t find a place in the surrounding or a sense of purpose, he is susceptible to develop mental health and addiction problems.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health issue, it may be worth considering if loneliness is playing a part in perpetuating the problem. Addressing your loneliness could be the key to a healthy mind. Build relationships and cherish the network of family and friends around you. Technology is not the solution. Feel free to contact the Florida Mental Health Helpline if you need help, information or advice on mental health problems. We can refer you to a treatment center near your area that will help you in your battle to maintain your mental health.