The Elenore Rigby Syndrome – Loneliness

This month, AARP magazine published the outcome of its survey taken by 3,012 people age 45 and older. Using the UCLA Loneliness Scale as a measure, the survey identified that 35% of the participants were chronically lonely. These statistics equate to 44 million Americans suffering from this condition. These numbers are striking when compared with a survey from 10 years before which measured that 20% of the participants were lonely.

This new survey equates to one (1) out of every three (3) older Americans being chronically lonely. Another important fact is that loneliness was “an equal opportunity condition”, transcending gender, race and educational levels.

The highest group of suffers were identified in the 40 – 50’s age range. What adds to this are the current demographics that show the majority of single-person households has increased 11% since 1985 and 70% of those single-person households are comprised of individuals 45 years and older.

While loneliness itself is a condition that breeds unhappiness and reduces the satisfaction, pleasure and joy from one’s life, there is another consideration that is more urgent than the dissatisfaction what comes from feeling lonely. For decades, it has been shown that individuals who are withdrawn or out of touch with their communities, friends, families, peers have not only unhappy lives but also earlier deaths.

Especially during tough economic times, people can tend to withdraw from social interactions due to the lack of money needed to attend events, entertain at home, buy presents, travel with friends and so forth. What can be done to address and change our circumstances if we find ourselves experiencing loneliness? Many of the most effective antidotes are basic, common sense approaches to encouraging meaningful relationships and social engagement.

1) Identify if loneliness is a concern or problem for you and ask yourself, “am I ready to make a change?”

2) Strategize what option would be most appealing to you for making a change; these options can include nurturing or reconnecting with personal relationships in your life.  Join a community organization; participate in church, synagogue or temple activities.

3) Find an organization that you would like to volunteer for.

4) Identify a personal hobby or passion that has a class, club or on-going activities you would enjoy being part of.

5) Keep moving – get out of the house. There are many opportunities, such a library events, “Meet Up” groups and town concerts,  that allow for meeting others with similar interests and values.

Being lonely is a painful state to find our self in, but most importantly, it is a  danger to our health and longevity. With what we know today about chronic disease and the mind-body connection to health, it is important for all of us to stay connected to others. As John Donne, the 16th century English Poet and clergyman said way back in 1624:

No man [person] is an island entire of itself; every man [person] 
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main

With all good wishes,

Copyright 2010 G. Donadio