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Mental Health Awareness Week: Addressing Loneliness

11 May 2022 | by BPS Communications Team

In support of Mental Health Awareness Week we spoke with Professor Aimee Aubeeluck, Professor of Health Psychology Education on the subject of loneliness, how it can affect both your physical and mental health and some tips on how to manage this.

If someone asks you to consider the impact of loneliness on your health, your thoughts may well take you to the widely recognised link between loneliness and mental wellbeing. Although feeling lonely is not a specific mental health condition in itself, there is a wealth of research that suggests it is associated with, for example, an increased risk of anxiety and depression.

But did you know that loneliness can also impact your physical health? Psychological research has linked loneliness to physical health conditions, such as an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, weakened immune system, and reduced life expectancy. Also when we consider the fact that friendships and social relationships have complex constructs, the benefit of social support and the impact that this can have on both mental and physical wellbeing, suggests that the presence of a social support system can help to buffer, or protect a person from the negative impact of feeling alone, or disconnected from others.

If you're feeling lonely it can be difficult to reach out to people, and small steps can make this easier. Think about visiting somewhere where you can just be around other people in a casual setting, such as a park or cafe, or initiating a low-key conversation by dropping a text to a friend or family member. If you know someone who might be lonely, just showing them you are available can be one of the best things that you can do. Keeping in touch regularly with others helps to open up a space where you can connect.

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