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  • Writer's pictureEllen Krohne

Loneliness Epidemic

I abhor being lonely. I’m ok being alone sometimes, to write or read or just think. But after a day or so, I need people. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family of nine and there was never time alone. Or maybe that’s just the way I’m wired. I’m happiest with others. But for many, being with others and feeling connected is not happening now.

Being lonely is not just a feeling, it turns out. Several recent studies have alarming evidence of the health risks that both loneliness and social isolation pose.

Loneliness is defined as “feeling alone or disconnected from others. It is feeling like you do not have meaningful or close relationships or a sense of belonging. It reflects the difference between a person’s actual and desired level of connection. This means that even a person with lots of friends can feel lonely.”

Social isolation is “the lack of relationships with others and little to no social support or contact. It is associated with health risks even if people don’t feel lonely.”

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) website lists the following:

1. Social isolation and loneliness have been linked to increased risk for:

· Heart disease and stroke

· Type 2 diabetes

· Depression and anxiety

· Addiction

· Suicidality and self-harm

· Dementia

· Earlier death

2. Social isolation increases your risk of

· Dementia by 50%

· Heart disease by 29%

· Stroke by 32%

These are startling statistics! Now I realize why health care experts are calling loneliness an epidemic.

Research also suggest that loneliness impacts some groups more than others, including:

· Older adults

· Low-income adults

· Young adults

· Adults living alone

· People with chronic diseases and disabilities

· Immigrants

· Individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning

Much of the research cited on the CDC website is recent, conducted during the last few years. The pandemic, it is suggested, influenced the numbers of people impacted by loneliness and the health impacts have followed.

A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) points out that more than one-third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.

Another group affected by loneliness that research has substantiated, and many of you, dear readers, have experienced, is those who are grieving. During the grieving process, feelings of loneliness are common.

So, what do we do about loneliness and social isolation? The CDC website has pages of excellent tips to improve social connection, available at this link:

In summary, the CDC suggests to:

1. Establish and maintain social connections – Devote attention and have regular contact with others, even when you may not be feeling like it. Join groups that have shared interests or values.

2. Reach out to members of your family or community that you trust and let them know how you are feeling, and ask for their support.

3. Find ways to be supportive of others, strengthening the quality of your social connections.

4. Address barriers to social connection by taking care of your health.

5. Only use technology in ways that are positive to you.

6. Talk with your health care provider about concerns like stress, loneliness and social isolation. Being open and honest with your health care provider can help them better understand how to help you.

If you are feeling lonely or socially isolated from the death of a loved one, or other life changes, such as health issues, divorce, or retirement, I hope these tips will be helpful. In next month’s blog, we will explore how we can help our children and teens avoid loneliness and social isolation.

Heartlinks Grief Center provides grief support to all ages, regardless of ability to pay. If you are grieving or know someone who could use assistance on their grief journey, please contact Heartlinks Grief Center at 618-277-1800 or email

Proceeds from the sale of my books are donated to help support Heartlinks Grief Center, a program of Family Hospice of Belleville, IL.

Be blessed,


“We Grow Stronger Together”

Books are available on at the links below:

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