2 Your Health: Loneliness: It Doesn’t Just Happen During the Holidays

Dr. Rose Bricker

In May 2023, the new Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murphy, published an article with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He states that we have an epidemic of loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection in the U.S. It’s not just a holiday occurrence. It is now considered a public health crisis. He states, “Our relationships are a source of healing and well-being, hiding in plain sight. Relationships can help us live healthier, more fulfilled, and productive lives.”

I absolutely believe that. In the article, he shares the physical and emotional consequences for those who are experiencing loneliness. The physical consequences are a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% risk of developing dementia for older adults. The research shows the lack of social connection increases the risk of premature death by more than 60%. Those numbers are alarming!

In the July 26, 2021, edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Internal Medicine, Dr. Ashwin Kotwal, published his research on loneliness and social isolation. He states that social interactions had a long-lasting reduction of loneliness and depression over a two-year period. For some of his patients, the need for medications such as antidepressants, opioids, and sleep medications had also been reduced. He found that social isolation can amplify the pain in a person’s brain. Dr. Kotwal is an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and a geriatrics specialist.

Interventions for Loneliness:

Listening to Music. Go to local music events.

Dancing. Take a class, get involved.

Writing. When you write down what you are grateful for, it increases the activity (chemicals) in your brain. Make a gratitude list. Gratitude really does make you happier.

Volunteering. Helping others and having a reason to get up is important to our mental health. You will also meet new people and discover your purpose in life. Only you know what is important to you. Everyone is different. Put some thought into discovering what enriches your soul.

Nature Therapy. Walk in nature. Now that the weather has cooled in Oro Valley, intentionally take time out to get outdoors. Do this on a daily basis.

Art Classes. Be creative. This is another opportunity to increase your social support circle. Stimulate your brain. Take classes in the community. Take a yoga or Pilates class.

Intentionally increase your social circle and lessen your sense of loneliness. Loneliness and depression can be devastating. You can get help and change the quality of your life. You do not have to do this alone. If you would like more information on how to manage loneliness, depression, and anxiety, and develop healthy relationships, please call me for a 30-minute complimentary meet and greet appointment at 520-815-6901. My website is bluelemonhealthandwellness.com, and I’m located at Blue Lemon Therapy and Coaching, LLC, 10132 N. Oracle Road, Suite 160, Oro Valley, AZ 85704 (in the business park behind the Fairfield Inn in Oro Valley).