Monday, August 2, 2010


It is a general impression that due to technology we are well connected to others and socially interacting more. However, despite the advance of technology-supported interactions there is a reduction in the quantity and quality of social relationships. More and more people are reporting that they feel that they have no confidant and that they feel lonely.

Loneliness is not the same as solitude which some people prefer. Loneliness is not being alone but a subjective experience of isolation. People who are lonely feel that they are disliked, are often self-involved and lack empathy with others.

Besides the obvious mental component, loneliness also adversely effects physical health. The influence of loneliness on an individual’s health is comparable with well-established risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and obesity. Persistent loneliness affects the individual via a deleterious effect on stress hormones, immune function and cardiovascular function.

Studies have shown that both introverts as well as extroverts are likely to get a mood boost from bonding with other people. Thus when feeling blue, the primary urge for isolation is to be avoided while connecting to family or friends is quite desirable.

If you feel like making a difference, the first small step is to reach out and reach out a lot. Reaching out can be a simple gesture of acknowledging another person’s presence by a smile or a greeting. When trying to connect don’t think how useful the other person is going to be, instead think about the value you are going to provide through the interaction.

As you prepare to think of all the warm or smart things you are going to say to drive away your neighbour’s loneliness, you might need to be reminded that some people need a listener.

Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB, 2010 Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Med 7(7): e1000316. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316 [Full Text]


VSB said...

Yes 'reaching out' and being a 'good listener' are traits that are becoming elusive in our wired world. Guess everybody wnats to be reached out to and listened to which is resulting in increasing number of hands being firmly stuffed in the trouser pockets and everybody doing the talking to anybody who is under compulsion to listen.

VS said...

Right, we have to realize that a smiley howsoever cute is no substitute for a real smile.

elisa freschi said...

I surely get a mood boost from interaction. But I know people who feel outpowered by human relations. These are –they maintain– fatiguating and, hence, utterly depressing. Do they just pretend? What do the studies you read say about these cases?

VS said...

I think it depends on the sort of expectations they have and the quality of interactions they get. That is why I suggested that we should first assess what quality we bring to the interaction.