Little is known, but loneliness affects both health and obesity. The story that follows is that of a young American woman, but it applies to all countries.
Loneliness and its impact on health
"New York is so expensive and stressful that I decided to leave for Portland, Oregon. I was hoping to have more time to work.
I rented a house there, and at the beginning I had a light heart, eager to make new acquaintances. I went to all the places where we are supposed to meet people: parks, bookshops, bars, etc. I even had gallant appointments. I met a lot of people, but no one with whom I really got along.
While I was pleasant and open, I became sullen and a little suspicious. I knew I needed to create real interactions with others, but it was physically impossible for me to meet new people with whom I could not have hooked atoms.
Solitude and disease, a proven link
Suffering from anxiety attacks, I undertook research on solitude and the studies I found were frankly disturbing.
So I learned that loneliness was a mortal risk. Elderly people who are confronted with them are thus likely to die sooner than others.
Loneliness is a risk factor equivalent to smoking and more important than obesity.
In addition, more and more people are suffering. In the United States, for example, 40% of adults say they feel lonely, compared with only 20% in the 1980s.
The growing number of our interactions on the Internet does not remedy, as one would think, quite the contrary. A study conducted among Facebook users showed that the most assiduous users are also those who feel the least "feeling of well-being" during the day.
Loneliness and stigmatization
In today's world where you are judged based on the importance of your social network, loneliness is a humiliating feeling. When my mother, who had just separated from my father-in-law, called a cousin with whom she had no contact for years, in search of a little human warmth, Mocked of her: "You have no friends or what? ".
John T. Cacioppo, who studies the impact of loneliness on health at the University of Chicago, says: "Admitting yourself feeling alone is like sticking a big S on your forehead." He says he felt very embarrassed in a plane when he was holding a copy of his own book on the jacket of which the word "solitude" is printed in large letters. "For the first time, I knew what it was like to feel alone in the eyes of everyone," he confesses.
After the revelation of his attempted suicide, British actor Stephen Fry told his blog about his fight against depression and explained that loneliness was the most painful aspect:
" Alone ? I get practically one invitation per day in my mailbox. I will be in the royal box at Wimbledon and friends have generously and very seriously offered to join them in southern France, Italy, Sicily, South Africa, British Columbia and America this summer. I have two months to start a book before heading to Broadway for a season of The Night of Kings. I reread this last sentence and I see that, whether bipolar or not, if I am under treatment and not really depressed, what right have I, blood, to feel alone, unhappy or abandoned? I do not have the right. But I have no right either not to feel these feelings. Feelings are not something we are entitled to or not. In the end, solitude is the most terrible and contradictory of my problems. "
We all know the feeling of being alone in a crowded room, and it can obviously be as popular as Stephen Fry. Even surrounded by a crowd of fans, one can feel lonely if no one really knows us or has no one to count on and who, reciprocally, can count on us.
It is not the number of people we know that matters to avoid the feeling of being alone. As John T. Cacioppo explains, it is the quality of relationships that counts, not their quantity.
Countries such as Denmark and Great Britain have understood this, they seek solutions and have implemented interventions for those who feel alone, especially the elderly.
When we feel lonely, we do not control our impulses anymore and we get into what scientists call "social evasion", which means that we are fleeing from others and are trying to protect ourselves. In other words, it puts into action our primary defense mechanisms: combat or flight. We remain alone rather than confronting individuals we do not trust.
John T. Cacioppo examined the sleep of people who suffer from loneliness. It turns out that they are more prone to micro-alarm clocks than those that do not have problems with social interactions. Their brain remains alert, fearing possible threats.
We are not talking about loneliness, because making efforts to break it is not necessarily enough. The Internet, although it has contributed to the worsening of the phenomenon, could however be a solution to this problem. John T. Cacioppo was indeed challenged by a phenomenon: statistics reveal that the couples who met on the Net divorced less and are more accomplices than the others. If these data are true, we can conclude that social networks are indeed a way to make friends for people who, as I have described, have cut themselves off from the world.