Loneliness is a big issue in 2018 – an issue about which we are all becoming aware. Although the focus has been on older people, for the most part, it’s an issue increasingly affecting younger people too. Politicians and health professionals may argue and debate the causes and the role of our work culture, technology, and a sedentary lifestyle. For the rest of us though, it’s a matter of using our intuition to identify signs of loneliness in the people around us and what we can do to help.
Humans are a social group. Since our evolution, we have always lived in and required kinship groups of family and friends. “Loneliness” is the opposite of having a close-knit kinship group – defined as sadness, anxiety, depression or other negative feelings inspired by a lack of communication or meaningful interpersonal relationships. It can affect almost anyone and is just as likely in extroverts as it is in introverts.
The reasons for loneliness in different age groups vary. In younger people, it is the present work culture leaving little time for meaningful leisure pursuits although some believe that social media is partly responsible too. In older people, it’s the result of personal health problems and the deaths of those closest to us reducing our social circle.
Sign 1: Behavioural Changes
If they’re usually quite upbeat, an early riser, somebody who likes to get out for a walk then that behaviour might be the opposite. They don’t have anyone to be ready for and won’t see the point in leaping out of bed to face the day. You might also find that if they once had impeccable personal grooming, that they go for days without showering. In their mind, there is no point in making the effort for themselves.
Sign 2: Changes to Health
Loneliness affects health and comes with all sorts of other symptoms such as mild depression which has several strong indicators. Loneliness coupled with depression can lead to low appetite, eat all the wrong things, or consume more alcohol as a coping mechanism – even if their drinking does not become problematic in itself, an increase in alcohol can suggest underlying issues. They might also become prone to imaginary illnesses or full-blown hypochondria.
Sign 3: Increased Spending
Although we all like to treat ourselves to the occasional day trip and new clothes and it can be productive to distract oneself when feeling lonely, it is not problematic until the spending becomes habitual or they start to spend more than their income. Some lonely people go on holiday by themselves. This can be empowering, but if they are doing it all the time it may be a sign that they want some company more than the adventure.
Sign 4: Confessing to Loneliness
Many people find it hard to put their emotions into words., especially older people brought up with an attitude of a stiff upper lip. But people do open up, even if they’re not likely to use the words “I’m lonely”, they are likely to use related terms such as “I’m bored with being at home all day” or “nobody ever comes to see me”.