December is already upon us and the end of the year is just around the corner. Last month’s theme was focused on kindness and prosociality, but this month’s theme looks at what happens when social relationships are lacking; loneliness. Unfortunately, it is a feeling most of us will experience sooner or later.
December is an interesting month when one looks at social relationships. The days are shorter and the weather gets colder, and traditionally this is why this time of year is focused on seeking out the warmth of friends and family to celebrate the many different holidays with (Sinterklaas, Christmas, New Year’s). But this is also why December is one of the loneliest months for some among us. When for whatever reason someone doesn’t have anyone to share these holidays with, the absence of friends or family is even more acutely felt.
As the population ages with each passing year, there is an increase in elderly people that experience loneliness. Longer life expectancy, the passing away of friends and poor health and mobility all factor into increasing the amount of lonely elderly in many countries. However, loneliness is experienced among all ages with many young people also suffering from its effects. This is especially true for adolescents who first move away from their parental home and settle down in unfamiliar cities. While they are usually surrounded by many people their age, they can still feel incredibly lonely when they have trouble connecting with others, or when they feel like their social lives are not living up to their expectations.
While occasionally feeling lonely is perfectly normal, it is when it becomes a chronic feeling that it does most of its damage. It can take quite a toll on someone’s physical and emotional health and it has been linked to increased stress, depression and anxiety. Although it is a multifaceted problem, we here at the GEMH Lab feel like there might be a role for us yet helping lonely people find some form of social connectedness. This month we will have several blogs on loneliness, such as looking at the prevalence among students, the positive and negative effects of solitude, and the promises and dangers of online relationships and social media.
Share with us the moments when you’ve felt lonely, your ideas on how to prevent loneliness, and discuss this topic down below in the comments, or reach us on Twitter @GEMH_Lab.