Humans are hardwired at a DNA level to need interaction, but society doesn’t always provide us with enough opportunities to fulfil this very human need. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are increasing in Ireland, and throughout the rest of the modern world.
In 2016, British Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a Minister for Loneliness to help combat loneliness – “the sad reality of modern life”. Senator and GP Keith Swanick set up a loneliness taskforce after observing the “huge epidemic” in his Co Mayo surgery. It is estimated that one in 10 people in Ireland experience loneliness, and the number is rising.
TILDA, the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, found that thirty-seven per cent of people aged 50 or over felt lonely often or some of the time. It’s not just older people who make up the demographic of lonely people. The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness reported forty-three per cent of young adults using the charity Action for Children felt isolated. The same report highlighted that over half the parents contacted by the charity faced problems with loneliness. Loneliness and isolation can strike at any time in life.
Prolonged feelings of isolation and loneliness can cause sadness and distress about being by yourself. These feelings may trigger depression and a plethora of other symptoms including:
- Aches, pains and headaches
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of appetite
- Substance abuse
- Low self esteem
If you feel lonely or isolated, there are ways to help overcome these feelings:
- Reach out to family or friends, even if they are not local to you. Technology can keep you in touch with loved ones even if they are miles away.
- Get out and about more, even if it’s just visiting public places or doing the shopping.
- Become active in your local community.
- Consider getting a suitable pet.
- Get support.
If you’re going through a difficult time of loneliness or isolation, you can contact me confidentially to discuss ways of helping you feel more connected and less alone.