On Loneliness

I’ve always associated loneliness with people who don’t have anyone. Older people. Those whose spouse has died or who live alone without any real friends or family for support. That can be a difficult and depressing way to get through each day.

But I read an article recently which surprised me a bit. It said that loneliness peaks at three key ages in our lives. According to their research, people reported feeling moderate to severe loneliness in the late 20’s, mid 50’s and late 80’s. The 80’s didn’t surprise me but the other two age groups did to varying degrees.
The article explained that loneliness doesn’t mean being alone, nor does it mean not having friends. Loneliness is defined as “subjective distress, ” or the discrepancy between the social relationships you want and the social relationships you have.

I never thought of loneliness that way.

Apparently, people in the late 20’s feel a sense of stress or guilt about their life paths and how it measures up against their peers. This added stress increases feelings of loneliness or isolation.
People in their mid-50’s sometimes go through a mid-life crisis. Health sometimes becomes an issue, friends may have died and you realize that your life span is not forever.
The 80’s is where I always felt loneliness manifests itself more. Sometimes the older you get the more alone or detached you become and it never seems to get any better.

There were two other things about the report that surprised me. The first is that the reduced life span linked to loneliness, is similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The other is that there is an inverse association between loneliness and wisdom. People who have high levels of wisdom don’t feel lonely and vice versa. Wisdom should not be confused with intelligence. More times than not, they are mutually exclusive.

I don’t know if it’s always been this way or if it’s a reflection of todays society, but while we all know people who we believe are lonely, there are many more who are having difficulty dealing with life. People we see each day.

The holidays are a happy time of year for many of us. We get together with family and friends to celebrate love and share our lives in a meaningful way. But there are many who will be alone, either physically or emotionally. If we can help one person this holiday season with a phone call or visit, maybe that will extend into the new year and beyond. Then maybe another.

For all in life that is beyond our control, this is something we can affect. One hand at a time.

I pray you all have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday and healthy New Year.

 

47 thoughts on “On Loneliness

  1. Kate Crimmins

    I have friends who find the holidays a very lonely time. I’ve always adapted as times change. My holidays are not as hectic as they were when I was young but loneliness isn’t about things to do. Have a great holiday.

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  2. Pamela Read

    in my youth I have felt totally alone in a large group of people. It was something I fought hard to get through. This was an incredibly insightful post at a time when it could be prevalent. Merry Christmas my friend. May the New Year be one of peace for us all.

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  3. murisopsis

    I read an article that mentioned that the people who lived the longest and had a good quality of life were those who could make new emotional attachments (that is friends). They didn’t dwell on the losses in life but continued to engage and interact with others. Most were involved as volunteers, joined clubs or groups, participated in faith communities, and actively sought out interactions with friends and family instead of passively waiting for others to come to them!

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  4. Pistachios

    I read a similar article recently (sounds like it was summarising the article you read). And I think it’s good that this area of well-being is being researched and reported on, but it needs to be followed with action. Thanks for the reminder that we can do something too – one hand at a time 🙂

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  5. Na'ama Yehuda

    What a kind and apt post for this time of year, George, when indeed so many have their loneliness – be it by choice or circumstances or the combination – highlighted by the ever-present emphasis on family (or even the idealized family.
    Granted, not all how are alone are lonely, and not all who are lonely are alone.
    I know children who are lonely, even while they live in busy households where one would never suspect they will be, for they are rarely if ever alone …
    As for adults, I know of friends – of various ages – who feel the loneliest when they are with their families, where the discrepancies between the ideal and the reality are amplified (for them) and where old dysfunctions are triggered and difficult feelings percolate. I also know of friends who are alone – because of nonexistent family or because they’d found a distance from their family of origin healthier, and are yet to make a family-of-choice with friends or other families of heart. Some of those feel lonely. Others feel content and at peace and find ways to make a holiday their own, in their way, their pace, their place.
    One friend volunteers at a soup kitchen every Christmas. He’d began going there when his parents, both only children and for whom he was the main caregiver, died within the span of a year. Their death left him–a man of 30 something, without kin in the world. While friends rallied around him and invited him to their homes, he felt lonelier than ever in their houses, bowed over by the contrast of his grief and the lacks it amplified. Going to volunteer at a soup kitchen offered an opportunity to give others in need while being with others who also knew pain. Having a plan also helped field the offers to “come and spend the holidays” with friends, without having to explain or suffer ‘the look’ of worry. He showed up for the soup kitchen fully prepared (and perhaps slightly hoping for) some moroseness. Instead he found community and a good amount of cheer. He’s been going ever since.
    In any event, sorry for this long story … but your post reminded me of him – and of the others around us who we may not know the story of, and may do well to check in with, even just so they know they are seen.
    Many wishes to a holiday of light, joy, and just the right amount of what you need and want and wish for.
    Na’ama

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    1. George Post author

      Please don’t ever apologize for writing what you feel. I loved reading your thoughts and story. You’re right, we don’t always know the story of those around us. A smile or helping hand goes a very long way. Have. Wonderful holiday and thank you again for your words.

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      1. Na'ama Yehuda

        Thanks, George. Glad my wordy response wasn’t too longish for you (I sure can be wordy :)) and that we resonate on how small kindness can make the difference for many around us. Happy holiday and am looking forward to reading more of your ‘stuff’ on your blog! Na’ama

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  6. Dale

    Loneliness truly is a state of mind, isn’t it?
    I definitely have my moments of loneliness but when they pop up, I find myself something to do, somewhere to go, someone to see!
    Merry Christmas to you George and to your family!
    xo

    Liked by 2 people

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  7. Mik Hetu

    The greatest of all human needs is connection. Loneliness has less to do with the number of people around you than the amount of acceptance, recognition of who you are, and basic mutual respect you receive.
    George, thank you for your post and its timing. The holidays do tend to amplify all kinds of emotions. Your post will help people get through it.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Mik. You’re so right about human connection and acceptance. They can connect or disconnect us in a variety of ways. Thank you for stopping by, reading and commenting..:)

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  8. Lynn

    All of this makes absolute sense to me and at this time of year in particular, I think there are many who feel incredibly alone. Thank you for sharing this George, it is so important to understand and to make an effort to reach out to those who need a little of our time, our love, our compassion & perhaps a hug. Merry Christmas George 😘

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  9. Helen Devries

    I felt lonely in my twenties, starting on a career…people were kind, but I felt the sense of being ‘the other’. It wore off, but it wasn’t pleasant.
    Mother is now 102 and only this year, with increasing ill health, has she started to feel lonely. Friends have died, though their families still include her in their activities, and she hates being at all dependent on paid carers whom she begins to resent. We speak on the ‘phone every day – and there always seems to be someone visiting her when i call her – but she is lonely.

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    1. George Post author

      I understand what you’re speaking about. My mother in law is 93 and resents her caregiver. Her sister is 92 and lives alone and independently but the loneliness for both is difficult even though we call everyday and visit as much as possible. Aging can be very difficult.

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  10. Ann Coleman

    That’s an excellent point, George! We do need to remember to reach out to those around us, because we honestly don’t always know when someone is feeling lonely. I was surprised to realize so many people in their late twenties experience loneliness, and wonder if that is a new trend? But no matter what the age, all we have to do is make the effort to connect in a meaningful way with as many as we can. Merry Christmas to you and your family, George!

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    1. George Post author

      I was surprised by the loneliness in those in their 20’s and the fact that stress can create loneliness but it does make sense. A smile, phone call or helping hand is like a hug for some…:)
      First Christmas with your new grandchild?
      Have a wonderful holiday, Ann.

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  11. aFrankAngle

    Once you hit the main points, I can see those three times – but if asked the question without reading the post, might have got two of the three (at best). The earliest one was the surprise. Well done at provide a suggestion to all of us!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. Ilona Elliott

    Thanks George. Great post. And you reminded me I need to message a friend or two who have lost loved ones in the last couple of years, one in particular who lost her beautiful young daughter to cancer. Merry Christmas to you and your family George!

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. Book Club Mom

    I understand this – I remember being in my twenties and feeling this way. I don’t now, but you are right, loneliness isn’t just physical. I wonder how I will feel in my 80s. It’s very important to reach out, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. George Post author

      Hi Bruce…great to see you. Hope all is well with you and that you had a great holiday. My best to you and your family. Hope to see you soon. Good luck in the playoffs, some place we haven’t been in a few years..:)
      Stay well.

      Liked by 1 person

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