I’ve come to learn that there is a difference between solitude and loneliness. We can be alone and feel content and in the same respect, we can be surrounded by people and still feel alone. Loneliness does not discriminate, nor does it take your personality into account. It is not bound by age, nor background.
What I’ve also come to learn is that loneliness can have harrowing effects on your health. As well as being as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, loneliness causes a 26% increase in likelihood of mortality rate. These stats prove that loneliness is in fact more dangerous than obesity. Yet, as a country, we invest huge amounts of time and resources into tackling inactivity and obesity.
I could somewhat digest these numbers if loneliness didn’t affect such a multitude of people throughout the UK.
In 2018, The Independent identified 2.4 million adults as suffering from chronic loneliness meaning it could be recognised as the UK’s most dangerous health condition. Considering this, loneliness ultimately should be treated as the health emergency that it is. 1/5 of the population always or often feel lonely. With more people living alone now, and workplaces becoming more and more automated, loneliness is affecting more of us.
Humans are deeply social animals and interaction increases our likelihood of survival. We feel threatened by isolation which then leads to a state of vigilance whereby we scour for opportunities to make personal connections. Perhaps this is why people are so reliant on social media now because it creates a perceived sense of belonging and heightened opportunity for heightened interaction.
Loneliness makes our thinking fearful and distant. It can be extremely destructive for our thought and behaviour patterns. It then takes deep work to re-frame our faulty thinking about what we perceive to be distressing situations.
The Blair Academy seeks to tackle this health crisis by running Dance classes and events which provide an opportunity for social interactions and promote well-being. In providing a safe space for people to engage in an often new activity, we assist communities in functioning well and contribute to building connected societies.
In light of GPs in 2018 seeing between 1 and 5 people per day who are suffering with loneliness Theresa May launched the first loneliness strategy. Hopefully this poses great opportunity to actively tackle this harrowing issue that can affect anyone. The Blair Academy aims to become part of ‘social prescribing’ adopted as part of the strategy. Encouraging these physical, social interactions through Hip Hop dance to reduce demand on NHS & improve quality of life.
Take some time out to check in on those around you (old, young and everything in between) and provide some company when you can. Whether it’s a dance, or a cup of tea, those moments of human interaction are crucial, and good for your health!
Stay healthy, stay connected (in real life as well as through technology)