Loneliness on the Rise

Posted: August 27, 2009 in depression, loneliness, mental health news

Here is an article from Newsweek that describes an increase in loneliness. Considering my most recent blog posts, I thought it might be appropriate.
Because the last time I posted a link it didn’t last long, here are some highlights:

Social isolation in all adults has been linked to a raft of physical and mental ailments, including sleep disorders, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of depression and suicide. How lonely you feel today actually predicts how well you’ll sleep tonight and how depressed you’ll feel a year from now, says John T. Cacioppo, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago and coauthor of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. Studies have shown that loneliness can cause stress levels to rise and can weaken the immune system. Lonely people also tend to have less healthy lifestyles, drinking more alcohol, eating more fattening food, and exercising less than those who are not lonely.

And more:

Loneliness can be relative: it has been defined as an aversive emotional response to a perceived discrepancy between a person’s desired levels of social interaction and the contact they’re actually receiving. People tend to measure themselves against others, feeling particularly alone in communities where social connection is the norm.

And then there are some findings concerning facebook and other online social networking methods:

Social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace may provide people with a false sense of connection that ultimately increases loneliness in people who feel alone. These sites should serve as a supplement, but not replacement for, face-to-face interaction, Cacioppo says. He compares connecting on a Web site to eating celery: “It feels good immediately, but it doesn’t give you the same sustenance,” he says. For people who feel satisfied and loved in their day-to-day life, social media can be a reassuring extension. For those who are already lonely, Facebook status updates are just a reminder of how much better everyone else is at making friends and having fun.

I can totally relate to this. When everything is fine and dandy, facebook is great. If I’m depressed or feeling lonely, then facebook makes me feel like a loser. I can even feel ignored on my email groups. But the lonelier I am the more I cling to facebook.

The article also mentions that while loneliness is not genetic, sensitivity to loneliness may be inherited.

So I guess I need to get off the internet and make some more friends!


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