What the Difference is between Isolation and Loneliness (and Why It Matters)

What the Difference is between Isolation and Loneliness (and Why It Matters)

02.09.2021 Off By manager_1

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Many people use the terms “loneliness”, “isolation” interchangeably. In fact, we have all become familiar with them over the past 2020 year. It’s possible to be lonely but not isolated. Both have an impact on our mental and physical well-being.

Social isolation refers to a lack in social connections. This could be caused by quarantine, being in remote areas, or other factors that can make it difficult for a person to have a social network to trust and rely on.

On the other hand, loneliness is the feeling that you are socially isolated. This is not necessarily true. One person may feel lonely if they have many social connections. A socially isolated person may feel lonely if they only have a few.

Even before the pandemic, loneliness and social isolation were major issues

Loneliness and social isolation were significant problems even before the pandemic. According to the National Academics of Science, Engineering and Medicine, 25% of Americans over 65 felt socially isolated. A significant proportion of people over 45 felt lonely, and this percentage is increasing as we age.

This report was published just before the world fell apart, in February 2020. Carla Perissonotto was one of the authors of this report. She is also a professor in geriatric medicine at University of California, San Francisco. “We don’t know how long it will take to feel isolated or lonely, nor how severe this would have to be to have any lasting negative consequences.”

We need to adapt our strategies for reducing loneliness

We are still learning about how to deal with loneliness and social isolation. We do know that loneliness and social isolation are both harmful to our health. A higher chance of developing dementia and premature death is associated with social isolation. Social isolation and loneliness both increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Loneliness often leads to higher levels of anxiety and depression.

Our ability to reduce social isolation as the pandemic continues is being limited by COVID-19 precautions. Zoom fatigue is a common condition. Social media and other forms digital communication are only limited.

Studies have mixed results regarding the effectiveness of digital contact in preventing loneliness. One study found an increase of loneliness despite increased digital communication. Another study found that while people over 50 experience greater social isolation, their loneliness rates remained stable.

Consider what you can do to feel less alone

We can only think about how we can feel less lonely and social isolation when it comes down to loneliness and social isolation. This will vary for everyone. What works for one person might not work for another when it comes to meaningful social contacts. Perissinotto explained to the NY Times that we can think about the types of connections we want and how we might get them.

It doesn’t matter what it is that makes you feel less alone, it is important to find it and take the time to do it. It will become a blessing to your health and well-being.