Loneliness affects the mind and the body

June 10, 2010 by  
Filed under DEPRESSION

When I decided to become a work-at-home-mom (WAHM) after moving to a strange country, little did I know that the word “loneliness” would take on a new dimension for me. I am not exactly a social butterfly, but the utter isolation of a home office was too much for me. My friends were so far away, my kids at the kindergarten, my husband at the office. There were no colleagues to talk to or even just to bicker with. I became depressed, lost appetite and weight, and couldn’t sleep. That was 3 years ago. Since then I have made new friends and joined some clubs and organizations and gone out regularly. But I have learned how hard social isolation can be – on the mind as well as on the body. No wonder that solitary confinement is used as a punishment for serious misdemeanors in prisons. Yet, one can be lonely even in a crowd of people.

What are the health effects of loneliness?

In recent years, research studies have been conducted to explore the causes of loneliness and how it affects health.  Here are some of the findings:

How does social network affect loneliness?

The current trend of social networking has good and bad effects on loneliness.

In a USA Today report, a cancer survivor got a lot of support through social media to over her depression. According to breast cancer survivor Jody Schoger:

“If any survivor posts something onto Twitter or Facebook that they’re ‘having a hard day,’ I can bet you 10 to 1 that he or she is surrounded by good wishes by day’s end. Yet the survivor, the one who is ill, has to be willing to take that step. Once he or she does, the burden of illness and its perceived isolation fades away.”

However, loneliness is contagious and it can also spread through social networking. There was the case of the so-called suicide pact among lonely young people only connected through the Internet a few years ago.

Dr. John Cacioppo, a social neuroscientist at the University of Chicago conducted several studies on loneliness and summarized his results as follows:

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.