The "Loneliness epidemic" unfortunately pre-dates the pandemic, which, of course, hasn't helped matters. Here are a few initiatives that are aiming to help!
In the two-thousand-and-late-teens lots of articles and think pieces were discussing a growing crisis, both globally and in our own houses - the growth of loneliness. Cultural changes were labelled as factors such as disconnection from family, more people living alone, an ageing under-supported population, changed working circumstances and of course the evils of technology.
Stats like this one from 2018 seemed shocking pre-pandemic:
"In Japan, there are more than half a million people under 40 who haven’t left their house or interacted with anyone for at least six months" The reality is that sadly, as a result of COVID that stat seems a lot more normal (do try to get that daily walk in though!)
Unsurprisingly issues of isolation and loneliness have worsened and in this article COVID-19 Is Making America's Loneliness Epidemic Even Worse they state that:
"the health consequences of loneliness can be likened to the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day."
They also describe the difference between isolation and loneliness:
"Social isolation is an objective indicator of how much contact somebody has with other people, whereas loneliness is “the subjective feeling of isolation,” says Dr. Carla Perissinotto, a geriatrician at the University of California, San Francisco who studies loneliness. Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lonely, nor does being around people mean you’re not, Perissonotto says. Loneliness is a feeling only the person experiencing it can truly identify."
Luckily there are some great initiatives trying to help combat this issue:
PEN A POSTCARD
Recently in a collaboration with Beyond Blue Australia Post launched a program of free pre-paid postcards. The postcards are designed to be divided into two parts - the first one has tips on retaining good mental health and is meant to be kept by the sender. The second part tears off as a postcard on which the sender can write on to send someone a message and stay in touch.
FRIENDS FOR GOOD
An Australian-based initiative 'Friends for Good' is centred around tackling loneliness via three central elements - education and awareness, research and a 'friend line'. The friend line is a chat/call centre where people around Australia can connect to volunteers in their state for a chance to chat with someone. They run events to help Australians educate and discuss the issue of combatting loneliness and its effects on the community as well as workshops for organisations. If you're looking for a great place to volunteer they are always looking for more people to help run the friend line - not a bad way to feel more connected no matter which end you're on!
Nod is a new app created with lonely college students in mind. Designed for students, and with their input, the elements included are positive psychology (activities to encourage gratitude, performing acts of kindness, savouring moments of positive emotion), cognitive and behavioural skill building (including things like initiating social outreach and being receptive to others invitations) and self compassion.