At every age, it is difficult to battle loneliness stemming from changes to our social lives. For seniors, many challenges may arise and may seem like massive interruptions to our happiness, such as grieving the loss of a loved one or moving into a new retirement community. According to a study published by Huffington Post Australia, social isolation and loneliness are serious issues for men, especially since the suicide rate in Australia is three times higher for men than women.
Because loneliness affects both mental and physical health, men need to be particularly careful not to hide their feelings of sadness. Battling social isolation alone can be a huge undertaking for anyone, so it is important for communities to reach out to all members and make sure nobody is suffering from feeling withdrawn.
Some health challenges plaguing men who are lonely include:
Bearing in mind the ways loneliness affects men, we can be more conscious of individuals who may seem isolated and reach out to make sure that nobody feels like they are on their own.
Age UK’s recent study on Social Isolation, “No One Should Have No One”, highlights the fact that the elderly’s vulnerable positions are worsened by the simple fact that they are lonely.
1.2 million people in England qualify as chronically lonely, half a million over 60s spend every day alone, and another half million routinely go five or six days at a time without meeting or speaking to anyone.
Social Isolation is a serious problem that does not only take a toll on a person’s mental health but physical health as well. In regards to mental health, loneliness leads to depression and sleeplessness. It also increases a person’s chances of developing clinical dementia by 64% (according to Holwerda et al’s 2012 study).
In terms of physical health, Holt-Lunstad found that loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%. It increases the onset of illnesses such as diabetes, heart conditions, and strokes. Further, research has shown that social isolation is as damaging to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and not exercising at all.
A Harvard study that followed two groups of men for 75 years found that those with more close, healthy relationships were happier and healthier as they grew older than the group of men that were lonelier throughout life.
It is our moral responsibility to care for our elders. We must support the generation that supported us when we needed them most. Even if you cannot visit an elderly loved one, a phone call can alleviate the worst impacts of loneliness. Simply speaking on the phone increases a socially isolated person’s feeling of connectedness to society.
We at Vida are pleased that Age UK has published a report that focuses solely on social isolation and its detrimental effects. We are doing our bit to compliment the ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’ and Age UK’s efforts to raise awareness about loneliness and reduce social isolation in the community by producing a video that highlights the impact of loneliness on the elderly.
Our video aims to engage with audiences’ emotions and consciousness, to motivate them to connect with their loved ones throughout the year and not just during the holidays. An emotional call to action, if you will. We’ll be releasing this video end of January, watch this space!