They say you can’t put a price on friendship, but loneliness costs Australians $2.7 billion a year according to a report from the Bank’s West Curtin Center for Economics. It is an epidemic that has continued to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, feelings of loneliness have increased across Australia. Fortunately, Western Australians were feeling relatively well. We got the second highest score when it comes to ‘social connectivity’, just behind the Australian Capital Territory. In contrast, the states of Queensland and South Australia scored the lowest in social cohesion.
The term “unity” by itself is only a few hundred years old. The negative connotations associated with loneliness do not appear in literature until the end of the eighteenth century.
While the word is relatively new, it is difficult to say when the emotional experience of loneliness became common. in Shakespeare all’s well That ends wellLoneliness mixed with loneliness. in villageOphelia may have drowned from loneliness.
Loneliness is mentioned in the ancient Dharwal dream story Bhanga and Manda (Guana and black a snake) – retold by Sydney botanist Francis Bodkin.
“Because of his poor temperature he [BAH’NAGA] He was a very lonely man, and a woman who had never said soft words to him before.”
So, do we put modern sentiments in ancient tales or do communal cultures suffer from loneliness too?
The gender gap in loneliness
In Australia, the economic cost of the unit is greater for women than for men.
Associate Professor of Economics at Curtin University Asteghek Mavisaklian talks about the economic effects of loneliness. She says it’s hard to pinpoint why women feel more lonely than men.
“There are likely multiple, complex reasons behind the gender gaps in loneliness,” Astgek says.
“The data on loneliness is self-reported. It is possible that women experience less stigma and are more comfortable reporting feeling lonely.”
“But it is also possible that women are motivated by higher expectations of social relationships. They may be more likely to feel lonely if they are not constrained.”
Astgek says one factor may be that men have more opportunities to socialize through work. This often happens during the years when many women stay at home to look after their children.
According to the study, Australian women are more likely to feel lonely at the age of 17. And while reports of loneliness decrease during adulthood, it increases suddenly for women over 65 years of age.
As for Australian men, reports of loneliness peak at age 50.
What is loneliness?
When we feel a high level of temporary loneliness, it stimulates the body to release more cortisol. Long-term feelings of loneliness are associated with higher average cortisol levels.
Cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone, prepares your body for the fight-or-flight response. It stimulates your body to produce more glucose for extra energy. This increase in stress and unpleasant feelings associated with loneliness can do two things.
For social types like us, loneliness means being vulnerable to attack. The fight-or-flight response may be what sets us up for this attack. Second, the emotional pain associated with loneliness gives us a biological hunger to connect with others.
This leads to a phenomenon that Dr. Tim Dean describes as an “evolutionary mismatch”. This mismatch occurs when the behaviors that evolution has instilled in us in order to survive become unhealthy in modern society. For example, our hunger for carbohydrates has turned into an obesity epidemic.
2018 Australian unit report It found that 25% of Australians feel lonely, while 30% feel they don’t have a group of friends.
So how does this emotional experience affect our physical health? Loneliness is associated with a range of health problems. It is linked to cognitive decline (about a 2% decrease in IQ over time) and an increased risk of dementia.
In fact, the majority of the estimated $2.7 billion is a result of medical costs associated with poor health.
But does chronic illness cause loneliness, or does loneliness increase the risk of disease?
Professor Tejan Kroes researches in community psychology and mental health at the Australian National University. She says they are two separate phenomena, often caused by similar social factors.
“The overlap in depression and loneliness speaks to the fact that the social ills that lead to loneliness – exclusion, discrimination and deprivation – are also critical determinants of clinical depression.”
Astgheak research indicates that loneliness is likely to lead to poor health outcomes and behaviors.
“More than half of 65-year-old women and men who feel lonely most of the time report ill health,” Astgek says.
“[This is] About twice the rate of those who don’t feel lonely.”
Chronic loneliness leads to behavioral changes and stimulates an inflammatory response in the immune system. Chronic inflammation contributes to a range of diseases including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and heart disease.
Both Tegan and Astghik say that the best way to combat loneliness is to participate in the community. If individualism helps create an epidemic of loneliness, the rediscovery of our societies may stop it.
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author: Thomas Crowe
Contact: Thomas Crowe – Particle
picture: The image is in the public domain