Simply Health ME E72 – Loneliness

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Why are we talking about this?

Tracey Crouch was just appointed the U.K.s minister of Loneliness. Loneliness is a huge growing public health issue in most developed countries

⅓ of older Americans report feeling lonely and isolated

This has long term health consequences including function decline and increase risk for heart disease, stroke, dementia, insomnia (and we know what that does!).

Individuals without meaningful social relationships are twice as likely to die from all cause mortality. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE SO RISKY?!

“It’s proven to be worse for health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, but it can be overcome and needn’t be a factor in older people’s lives,”

  • Mark Robinson, the chief officer of Age UK, Britain’s largest charity working with older people

Higher risk populations: new parents, children, disabled people, refugees

Dr. Holt-Lunstad at Brigham Young, who has analyzed 70 studies encompassing 3.4 million people, said that the prevalence of loneliness peaks in adolescents and young adults, then again in the oldest old.

people can be socially isolated and not feel lonely; they simply prefer a more hermitic existence. Likewise, people can feel lonely even when surrounded by lots of people, especially if the relationships are not emotionally rewarding.

But can affect ANYONE at any time.

I have felt many times in my life and still do at times.

Why do we have this problem

  • No mix between young and old generations (retirement is just bad for most people!)
  • Social Media and the FOMO
  • Working too much to just pay your bills or afford luxury items

Abraham Maslow (psychologist) considered the most basic of needs — warmth, food, shelter, security and a sense of connection. (he later added the concept of transcendence)

  1. Physiological Needs
  2. Safety Needs
  3. Social Belonging (or lack of)
  4. Esteem
  5. Self-Actualization

    The Challenge

It’s hard to admit you feel Lonely (it’s embarrassing)

Often in the ER we see physical complaints even though there might be a more pressing issue like loneliness underlying this

What do we do???

If YOU are lonely

  • Don’t blame yourself
  • Acknowledge the feeling. Careful not to distract with unhealthy behaviors.
  • Online groups can be good and bad
  • Meet-Up groups
  • Church if that is for you
  • Clubs
  • Reaching out to family
  • Reaching out to a medical professional


  • Recognize many are and reach out
  • Especially older folks
  • We can learn a lot by making friends with older folks

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