Internationally loneliness is recognized as an emerging public health issue. Loneliness occurs when the quality of our relationships are felt to be inadequate. It can occur even if we are surrounded by people, as well as when we are socially isolated. Everyone experiences loneliness at points in life, just as we experience pain and hunger. Loneliness is a prompt to seek out a way to meet our needs, in this case for social connection. For many people the experience of loneliness is temporary, but for others it becomes entrenched and damaging.
Loneliness causes physical health problems with consequences as dire as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. Loneliness also contributes to and exacerbates mental health problems. Loneliness occurs across the lifespan, from childhood to old age.
People experiencing loneliness have been shown to have less optimism about social situations and are likely to behave in ways that distance them further from others. This can develop into a persistent spiral of increasing loneliness.
The research evidence is clear. Loneliness can be addressed. Interventions that focus on changing negative thinking and encourage us to improve the quality of our relationships and build intimacy with those around us can reduce our loneliness.