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The outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has completely altered our lives. Schools and businesses are closing. People are being asked to stay home and practice social distancing.
Even before COVID-19 made headlines, we didn’t need to leave home for much — not to shop, not even to socialize.
Despite the online conveniences and connectedness, there are a lot of lonely people. One in five Americans say they feel lonely or socially isolated. And it hurts.
Loneliness poses a greater threat to health than obesity. It can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. How?
Research suggests loneliness impairs health by raising levels of stress hormones and triggering an inflammatory response, which in turn can increase the risk of heart disease, arthritis, type 2 diabetes and dementia, among other issues. Feeling lonely can also lead to anxiety and depression.
The prevalence of loneliness typically peaks in adolescents and young adults and then again in older adults, with seniors being most affected. An estimated 43 percent of seniors feel lonely on a regular basis.
Because loneliness is closely related to feelings of isolation, connection is important. Friendships and social support — which we already know are good for health — can help break the cycle of loneliness. How you perceive your level of connectedness to others tends to matter most, with emotionally rewarding relationships being most beneficial.
Here are 10 ways to combat loneliness and protect your health:
It is okay to feel sad and lonely from time to time — we all do. But when these feelings prevent you from living your life, then it’s important to seek help sooner rather than later. Call your doctor and figure out what your next step is so that you can feel more connected and less alone.
Explore behavioral health resources, or call 630-305-5027 for a free behavioral health assessment.
Depression can take a toll on your body, too
Learn more from Healthy Driven Chicago:
Getting help for depression
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