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    In the prominent Dutch early-evening talk show De Wereld Draait Door (The World Keeps on Turning/DWDD) on Friday 20 March Rutger Bregman, historian and author, stated that long-term loneliness is as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. CLAIM Is Rutger Bregman correct in claiming that long-term loneliness is as damaging to…

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    In the prominent Dutch early-evening talk show De Wereld Draait Door (The World Keeps on Turning/DWDD) on Friday 20 March Rutger Bregman, historian and author, stated that long-term loneliness is as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. CLAIM

    Is Rutger Bregman correct in claiming that long-term loneliness is as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day? 

    What were they talking about?

    On Friday March 20, DWDD did not start at seven o’clock as usual. It was a very rare evening on Dutch television. The Dutch King Willem-Alexander spoke to the people about COVID-19. Apart from his yearly Christmas speech, the Dutch king had not held a national speech on television since July 21, a few days after the MH17 plane crash.*)

    A speech like this is very unusual and special according to Carla van Baalen, professor of parliamentary history at Radboud University and director of the Centre for Parliamentary History. ‘’If the head of state holds a speech on national television apart from his Christmas speech then the circumstances in the country must be terrible’’, she says to daily Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.

    From his office in Huis ten Bosch, The Hague, the King spoke for seven minutes to the people about the coronavirus. He expressed words of comfort and encouraged people to stay strong during these difficult times. Read the King’s full speech here.

    After the Kings lasts words, the recognizable music intro of DWDD started and talk show host Matthijs van Nieuwkerk opened the show. The first thing he did was asking his guests what they thought of the speech.

    Discussion about the effects of the corona crisis in follow up of the King’s speech, in De Wereld Draait Door, a renown Dutch talk show.

    Loneliness virus

    One of the guests at Nieuwkerk’s table was Rutger Bregman. He is an historian and author who became an overnight social media sensation after he told billionaires at the World Economic Forum in Davos that they should stop avoiding paying tax. When it was his time to answer Nieuwkerk’s question, he started talking about what the King had said about loneliness and coronavirus: “If you are insecure and afraid, the need for contact with other people is big. You prefer familiar faces around you.Thankfully, there is still a lot we can do. We all know someone in our vicinity who will be needing people to look out for them. This is something we need to get through together and many people realize that.’’ The King ended his lines about loneliness with the message that we cannot stop the coronavirus, but we can stop the loneliness virus. ‘’Let’s make sure nobody feels abandoned.’’

    Bregman agreed with the King. He said that the loneliness virus is one of the biggest challenges nowadays and continued talking about the lack of measures that the Dutch government in his eyes takes to prevent the loneliness virus. ‘’The cabinet has announced a gigantic economic stimulus package to combat an economic recession, but what we need is a social stimulus package’’, said Bregman to Nieuwkerk. He went on about loneliness as a challenge. It is deadly he said. ‘’Long-term loneliness is as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.’’

    Loneliness in the Netherlands

    Public Health and Care.info, a website from the Dutch government that offers scientifically substantiated information about diseases, health, care and costs, published the most recent figures about loneliness in the Netherlands. In 2016, 43 per cent of the adult population (19 years and older) said that they felt lonely. Ten per cent feels serious to very serious loneliness.

    The definition used in this context was that loneliness is a negative situation, perceived through loss and disappointment. Loneliness is a personal, subjective experience. Feelings of loneliness mainly relate to defects in the quality of relationships. But someone can also feel lonely when the number of social contacts is lower than desired.

    Loneliness and smoking; the comparison

    Paul van de Lange, professor of Social Psychology, said to EenVandaag, that when you feel lonely you mainly need vitamin S, social relations. ‘’So you can share your feelings with someone you trust.’’ He also says that chronic loneliness can lead to depression and heart and vascular diseases. ‘’Just like smoking 15 cigarettes a day does.’’ In 2010 Julianne Holt-Lunstad published research that showed this comparison as well. In her study ‘Social Relationships and Mortality Risk’, she concluded that the influence of social relationships on risk for mortality is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality. Lonely people are fifty per cent more likely to die prematurely than people with strong social relationships. “Humans need others to survive,” said Holt-Lunstad. ‘’Social connection is crucial to human development, health, and survival.”

    Source : eufactcheck.eu

    Prolonged Social Isolation and Loneliness are Equivalent to Smoking 15 Cigarettes A Day

    Understanding social isolation and loneliness in older adults.

    Prolonged Social Isolation and Loneliness are Equivalent to Smoking 15 Cigarettes A Day


    MONDAY, MAY 02, 2022

    Michele M. Kroll

    Before the pandemic, one in four people older than age 65 experienced social isolation, putting them at a greater risk of loneliness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. These feelings of loneliness were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The exact number of seniors who feel lonely is difficult to pinpoint, but a University of Michigan poll found 56% of adults ages 50 to 80 reported feelings of isolation in June 2020. Though the survey included respondents below the senior age range, it demonstrates a stark contrast to reported feelings of loneliness in 2018, when 27% of respondents reported feelings of isolation.

    Many times, social isolation and loneliness are used interchangeably. The two are connected, but different.

    Social isolation is the lack of social contacts and having few people to interact with regularly. An individual can live alone and not feel lonely or socially isolated, just as someone can feel lonely while being with other people.

    Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact.

    According to the National Institute on Aging the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Social isolation and loneliness have even been estimated to shorten a person’s life span by as many as 15 years. People who are socially isolated or lonely (SI/L) are more likely to be admitted to nursing homes and the emergency room. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, people who are SI/L may get too little exercise and often don’t sleep well, which can increase the risk of stroke (by 32%), heart disease (by 29%), mental health disorders (by 26%) and premature mortality (by 26%), as well as other serious conditions.

    The University of California San Francisco found that being alone most of the time may contribute to a decline in the ability to perform everyday tasks. Fifty-nine percent were more likely to find daily tasks such as climbing stairs or walking more difficult.

    Social isolation and loneliness may also be bad for brain health and have been linked to poorer cognitive function and higher risk for dementia (by 50%), including and especially Alzheimer’s disease. Unlike mental health disorders such as depression, social isolation and loneliness often aren’t diagnosed. However, they still can promote negative cognitive and physical health effects.

    People who are lonely experience emotional pain. Losing a sense of connection and community can change the way an individual sees the world. Someone experiencing chronic loneliness can feel vulnerable and mistrustful of others. Emotional pain can activate the same stress responses in the body as physical pain. When this occurs over a long period of time, it can lead to chronic inflammation and reduced immunity. This raises risk of chronic diseases.

    Effects of COVD-19 Pandemic on Social Isolation and Loneliness

    A recent 2021 AARP survey on COVID-19 and emotional wellbeing reveals how the pandemic has taken its toll on older adults’ mental health. Results showed the emotional impact of the pandemic has led some older adults to increase both positive and negative coping habits. For example, one quarter of older adults reported eating more unhealthy foods now vs. pre-pandemic. A positive result shows that 27% have increased practicing mindfulness such as meditation or prayer.

    77% of those aged 50 and older said the pandemic had increased their level of concern about the future and worry in general.

    Similarly, seven in 10 said they had an increased level of depression and anxiety.

    50% reported that the pandemic had increased their level of anger in general.

    These findings are supported by recent results from the National Poll on Healthy Aging survey which found many older adults ages 50 to 80 reported experiencing worse depression or sadness, anxiety and worry, since the start of the pandemic. This makes sense, given what we know about prolonged social isolation and loneliness.

    Sources of Joy for Older Adults

    Being involved in the community, through volunteerism or a faith-based religion bring senior’s joy. According to the AARP study, other sources of joy for older adults include activities such as:

    Being outdoors (87%)

    Physical activity (72%)

    Hobbies, skills or projects (72%)

    Connecting with others in person (83%)

    Connecting by phone or virtually (79%)

    Are you or a loved one at risk for social isolation?

    To find out if you or a loved one is at risk, take this quick free assessment by the AARP Foundation

    Getting Involved

    Source : extension.unh.edu

    Loneliness Is Harmful to Our Nation's Health

    Research underscores the role of social isolation in disease and mortality


    Loneliness Is Harmful to Our Nation's Health

    Research underscores the role of social isolation in disease and mortality

    By Claire Pomeroy on March 20, 2019

    Credit: Getty Images


    Thanks to remarkable new technologies and the widespread use of social media, we are more “connected” than ever before. Yet as a nation, we are also more lonely. In fact, a recent study found that a staggering 47 percent of Americans often feel alone, left out and lacking meaningful connection with others. This is true for all ages, from teenagers to older adults.

    The number of people who perceive themselves to be alone, isolated or distant from others has reached epidemic levels both in the United States and in other parts of the world. Indeed, almost two decades ago, the book Bowling Alone pointed to the increasing isolation of Americans and our consequent loss of “social capital.” In Japan, for example, an estimated half million (known as hikikomori) shut themselves away for months on end. In the United Kingdom, four in 10 citizens report feelings of chronic, profound loneliness, prompting the creation of a new cabinet-level position (the Minister for Loneliness) to combat the problem.

    While this “epidemic” of loneliness is increasingly recognized as a social issue, what’s less well recognized is the role loneliness plays as a critical determinant of health. Loneliness can be deadly: this according to former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, among others, who has stressed the significant health threat. Loneliness has been estimated to shorten a person’s life by 15 years, equivalent in impact to being obese or smoking 15 cigarettes per day. A recent study revealed a surprising association between loneliness and cancer mortality risk, pointing to the role loneliness plays in cancer’s course, including responsiveness to treatments.

    Biologists have shown that feelings of loneliness trigger the release of stress hormones that in turn are associated with higher blood pressure, decreased resistance to infection and increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. There’s even evidence that this perceived sense of social isolation accelerates cognitive and functional decline and can serve as a preclinical sign for Alzheimer’s disease.

    It has long been recognized that social support—through the availability of nutritious food, safe housing and job opportunities—positively influences mental and physical health. Studies have repeatedly shown that those with fewer social connections have the highest mortality rates, highlighting that social isolation can threaten health through lack of access to clinical care, social services or needed support.

    However, how the subjective sense of loneliness (experienced by many even while surrounded by others) is a threat to health, may be less intuitive. It is important to recognize that feelings of social cohesion, mutual trust and respect, within one’s community and among different sections of society, are all crucial to well-being. Perhaps this is especially so at a time of great social polarization exacerbated by contentious politics and vitriolic TV news.

    These new statistics underscore the urgent need to address this “epidemic” of alienation and despair and to increase social support. For the first time in the U.S., life expectancy is declining, while the numbers of “deaths of despair” (from suicide, drugs and alcohol abuse), especially among white males, is on the rise. The chances of dying from an opioid overdose or suicide are now higher than the odds of dying in a motor vehicle accident.

    So what can be done to combat widespread loneliness and anomie? The good news is there are models of success already in place in the U.S. and across the world. Programs such as Meals on Wheels and help-lines that arrange phone calls between volunteers and the lonely—whether they be older adults or teens in crisis—offer direct social support to those feeling profoundly isolated. Intergenerational initiatives, like the dementia-friendly villages in the Netherlands, the Intergenerational Learning Center in Seattle, and global home-sharing programs offer unique opportunities for the elderly to make meaningful connections with children and young adults.

    Community engagement programs such as improvisational workshops at Chicago’s Second City aim to tackle social anxiety and feelings of isolation through laughter. And policy initiatives such as the Aspen Institute’s Weave: The Social Fabric project, New York’s Age-Friendly and England’s National Health Service provide strategic assistance—encouraging patients to engage in social activities rather than resorting to prescription drugs. And certainly information technology can be part of the solution as well: apps to “increase sociability” are being developed to combat loneliness. We have good models. We must prioritize further investment.

    But perhaps, equally important, each of us can reach out to someone who may be lonely: the senior next door who never has visitors, the homeless person who feels invisible, or the mother overwhelmed with the responsibility of a new baby. By making a simple human connection, we can save a life.

    Health and well-being are profoundly social. Ironically, in today’s hyperconnected world, we must tackle head-on the growing public health crisis of loneliness if we’re to become a healthier nation.

    Source : blogs.scientificamerican.com

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