Feeling lonely might make your heart ache- both figuratively and literally. Numerous studies claim that loneliness is affecting our health, and the statistics on the numbers of the lonely give cause for concern.
The fact that social isolation leads to various health problems is not news- for over a decade, scientists have been warning of the dire consequences loneliness can have. We already know that living in solitude can up your chances of coronary heart disease for 29% or put you at risk of developing dementia, and these are just some of the potential health risks. But, the latest information shows something else that’s got that everyone concerned: it seems that the problem of loneliness isn’t going anywhere; quite the opposite, the numbers of the lonely are growing at an alarming rate.
Just last month, the world got its first loneliness minister. Britain, which was dubbed the loneliest country of Europe, decided it’s time for the government to intervene in the country’s rising problem. Surveys show that 9 million people in the United Kingdom feels lonely, either always or “just” most of the time, and the disconcerting statistics have the state officials eager for a solution. Other nations might not yet fully recognize the problem, or have the tools to determine its scope, but it’s safe to say that many developed countries are dealing with similar issues.
But, how can the problem that’s considered a “sad reality of modern life” be something that we can overcome? Whether it’s our all-consuming jobs, the modern ideology of individualism, or just difficulty making real connections in the era of social media, the fact remains unchanged: today, people lack genuine relationships in their lives. And, at the end of the day, it’s up to us, and us alone to change that. No matter how difficult that task may be.
This doesn’t mean that being alone can’t bring happiness to some people. It can, to some extent, be more than fulfilling: but even Aristotle knew that “man is, by nature, a social animal.” We all need a safety net of sorts; people we can count on in times of need. Someone to tell you about their day at work, and someone you can ring, too, when you’re feeling the need to talk.
We have to maintain valuable relationships with other people, regardless of their role in our lives. The person you’ve come to rely on can be a lover, a friend, a family member or a like-minded individual you’ve met one day on the subway. As long as they make you feel less lonely, it’s all the same for your health.
And there’s nothing selfish or shameful about acknowledging that you need people in your life to help you thrive and grow as a person. It might be a little pragmatic, but if more of us were open about the sheer necessity of genuine relationships, maybe we wouldn’t be in this situation.
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