Loneliness is a complex emotional state characterised by isolation, disconnection, and a lack of meaningful social connections. It can affect individuals from all walks of life. One can experience loneliness because of various reasons such as losing a loved one or experiencing social exclusion. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared loneliness a global health concern, with the US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy stating it’s as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
WHO has established a Commission on Social Connection, addressing the need to prevent loneliness due to its alarming impact on health. The commission aims to elevate loneliness as a global public health priority, proposing a global agenda on social connection. Co-chaired by Dr. Vivek Murthy and Chido Mpemba, the commission seeks to demonstrate how personal connections and relationships can enhance the well-being of individuals and communities alike.
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasised the serious consequences, stating, “High rates of social isolation and loneliness around the world have serious consequences for health and well-being. People without enough strong social connections are at higher risk of stroke, anxiety, dementia, depression, suicide, and more.”
In one of his reports titled ‘Our Epidemic Of Loneliness and Isolation,’ Dr. Vivek Murthy, US surgeon general wrote, “The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.” Chido Mpemba, African Union Youth Envoy also highlighted the universal nature of loneliness, saying, “Young people are not immune to loneliness. Social isolation can affect anyone, of any age, anywhere.”
Loneliness is linked to a 50% higher risk of dementia and a 30% higher risk of coronary artery disease or stroke in older adults. It also impacts the life of young people with 5% to 15% of adolescents experiencing loneliness. In Africa, 12.7% of adolescents grapple with loneliness, compared to 5.3% in Europe.
Tips to beat loneliness
- Accept What You Feel:Acknowledging what you feel is one of the essential things to do when dealing with loneliness. Finding a solution to something is difficult if you don’t know what you are dealing with.
- Alone Time: Take some time to relax and do whatever you are best at. Shifting focus from being lonely can really help you feel better. You can try a new hobby or work towards achieving your goal.
- Connect With Others: Lack of social connections often results in loneliness. Meet new people and build relationships.
- Prioritise Yourself: Taking care of yourself is extremely important. Prioritise eating a well-balanced diet for your mind and body. Eat plenty of complex carbs, fatty acids, and leaf-green vegetables to keep your mood happy. Meanwhile, it is best to avoid foods that trigger depression and anxiety such as processed sugars and trans fats.