QMYOU Alumni Magazine Issue 85 - Page 16

16 QMYOU / Social Sciences

Loneliness Britain s last taboo

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RECENT REPORT into the cost of loneliness estimated that 1.2 million people in the UK experience chronic loneliness . The ‘ Campaign To End Loneliness ’ is calling for the condition to be seen as a public health problem , like obesity and smoking . But , there is a reluctance to talk openly about the devastating impact of loneliness – and it means that this ‘ last taboo ’ remains both a serious and largely unshared complex problem for many . Firstly , we must understand that there is a difference between experiencing loneliness and feeling lonesome . Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to perceived isolation . People who experience it are often anxious about their lack of connection and communication with others and can be fearful about how loneliness affects their current and future situation .
The condition is often associated with our older population . Indeed , in 2016 , the World Health Organization identified older people as being vulnerable to multiple social , psychological , and biological factors that can result in loneliness . However , in our fast-paced digital world , there is a growing awareness that the ‘ loneliness epidemic ’ is having a devastating impact on people ’ s health and wellbeing regardless of age or social class .
Within the constraints of reduced resources and squeezed government budgets - where we are seeing an erosion of community spaces and services where there would normally be interpersonal exchange - how can we address this isolating human experience and prevent it from digging deeper into pockets of society ? To address the list of health , social and economic issues linked with loneliness , we must better understand the condition , its impact on individuals and on key population groups .
Dr Olivia Sagan is Head of Division , Psychology & Sociology at QMU . Having researched mental illness throughout her career , she noticed that loneliness was a reoccurring theme in her work with mentally ill adults from all walks of life . She explained : “ In one recent participatory research project I asked a group of mental health service users what they thought should be looked at in more detail . I was not surprised to hear them say : “ what it is really like to be lonely ”.
“ On researching the experience of loneliness I found it to be a complicated , deeply human experience , one not necessarily helped by having more friends or a busy life , and one certainly not ‘ solved ’ by having a million Facebook ‘ friends ’ or using Skype and Facetime . In fact , it often seemed worsened by these substitutes for human connectedness . In bringing together a range of people from the arts , health , therapy , psychology , conservation and education , I explored the experience of loneliness in the 21st century . This work , brought together in a book of multidisciplinary research and recently published by Routledge , confirms that to understand and address loneliness in the 21st century we need to harness the talents not only of a broad spectrum of health and social professionals , but of architects , artists , educationalists , conservationists , engineers and philosophers .”
Recently regarded as a unspoken threat to the nation ’ s wellbeing , 2016 saw loneliness move out of the shadows and into the spotlight . The Scottish Government set up a £ 300,000 fund to tackle social isolation and loneliness , with an extra £ 248k for well-established projects aimed at curbing isolation . Dr Sagan believes the money is long overdue , but is pleased to see the funding directed towards vulnerable people . She confirmed : “ This signifies recognition of the harm that loneliness and isolation cause , not only to individuals but society more broadly .”
Evidence from psychology research demonstrates a correlation between loneliness and a range of health issues both mental and physical , with one recent study finding that loneliness triggers biological changes that can cause illness and early death .
Dr Sagan concluded : “ Worryingly , my research shows that the most vulnerable amongst us are seeing real cuts to their benefits , a scaling back of their health and social care and a withdrawal of vital community projects that offer a simple lifeline to so many . While loneliness does not differentiate between socio-economic backgrounds , there is no doubt its effects are felt more acutely by those who have the least means of combatting it .”
Dr Sagan ’ s most recent research , generated by concerns amongst groups of adults sharing their lived experience , looks more closely at people living with the contested diagnosis of Personality Disorder – claimed by many to be the loneliest of experiences and diagnoses .
Find out more about Dr Sagan ’ s recent research on loneliness and her co-edited books by viewing her staff profile on the QMU website : www . qmu . ac . uk

16 QMYOU / Social Sciences

Loneliness – Britain’s ‘last taboo’ A RECENT REPORT into the cost of loneliness estimated that 1.2 million people in the UK experience chronic loneliness. The ‘Campaign To End Loneliness’ is calling for the condition to be seen as a public health problem, like obesity and smoking. But, there is a reluctance to talk openly about the devastating impact of loneliness – and it means that this ‘last taboo’ remains both a serious and largely unshared complex problem for many. Firstly, we must understand that there is a difference between experiencing loneliness and feeling lonesome. Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to perceived isolation. People who experience it are often anxious about their lack of connection and communication with others and can be fearful about how loneliness affects their current and future situation. The condition is often associated with our older population. Indeed, in 2016, the World Health Organization identified older people as being vulnerable to multiple social, psychological, and biological factors that can result in loneliness. However, in our fast-paced digital world, there is a growing awareness that the ‘loneliness epidemic’ is having a devastating impact on people’s health and wellbeing regardless of age or social class. Within the constraints of reduced resources and squeezed government budgets - where we are seeing an erosion of community spaces and services where there would normally be interpersonal exchange - how can we address this isolating human experience and prevent it from digging deeper into pockets of society? To address the list of health, 16 QMYOU / Social Sciences social and economic issues linked with loneliness, we must better understand the condition, its impact on individuals and on key population groups. Dr Olivia Sagan is Head of Division, Psychology & Sociology at QMU. Having researched mental illness throughout her career, she noticed that loneliness was a reoccurring theme in her work with mentally ill adults from all walks of life. She explained: “In one recent participatory research project I asked a group of mental health service users what they thought should be looked at in more detail. I was not surprised to hear them say: “what it is really like to be lonely”. “On researching the experience of loneliness I found it to be a complicated, deeply human experience, one not necessarily helped by having more friends or a busy life, and one certainly not ‘solved’ by having a million Facebook ‘friends’ or using Skype a ѥ%)аЁѕ͕ݽ͕ѡ͔)Չѥѕ́ȁյѕ̸%)ɥѽѡȁɅɽ)ѡ̰ѠѡɅ䰁卡)͕مѥՍѥ$ɕѡ)ɥ́ѡЁ)Q́ݽɬɽ՝Ёѽѡȁ)ձѥ͍ɕ͕ɍɕѱ)Չ͡Iѱɵ́ѡЁѼ)չхɕ́́ѡ(ЁݔѼɹ́ѡх)Ё䁽ɽմѠ)ͽɽ̰ͥЁɍѕ̰)ѥ̰Սѥ̰͕مѥ̰)́ͽ̻t)Iѱɕɑ́չѡɕ)Ѽѡѥéݕ؁ͅ)́ٔЁѡ́͡)ѼѡѱиQMѥٕ͠ɹ)͕Ё չѼхͽ)ͽѥ̰ݥѠɄ+ ᬁȁݕх͡ɽ́)ЁɉͽѥȁMٕ)ѡ䁥ٕ́ɑՔЁ͕́)Ѽ͕ѡչɕѕѽ݅ɑ)ձɅMɵ胊qQ)ͥ́ɕѥѡɴѡ)́ͽѥ͔Ё)Ѽ٥Յ́Ёͽ䁵ɔɽ今t)٥ɽ卡ɕ͕ɍ)Ʌѕ́ɕѥݕ)́ɅѠՕ́Ѡ)хͥݥѠɕЁՑ)ѡЁ́ɥ́)́ѡЁ͔́ɱ)Ѡ)ȁMՑ胊q]她䰁)ɕ͕ɍ́͡ѡЁѡЁձɅ)Ё́ɔ͕ɕ́Ѽѡ)̰͍ѡȁѠ)ͽɔݥѡɅ݅٥х)չɽ́ѡЁȁͥ)Ѽͼ丁]́)Ёɕѥєݕͽ)ɽչ̰ѡɔ́ՉЁ́)ɔЁɔѕ䁉ѡ͔ݡٔ)ѡЁ́ѥлt)ȁMéЁɕЁɕ͕ɍ)Ʌѕ䁍ɹ́Ёɽ)ձ́͡ɥѡȁٕɥ)́ɔ͕䁅Ё٥ݥѠѡ)ѕѕͥ́Aͽͽɑ+L䁵ѼѡЁ)ɥ̸͕́)ЁɔЁȁMéɕ)ɕ͕ɍ́ȁѕ)́٥ݥȁхɽѡ)E5TݕͥєܹŵԹլ