Why do people seem to die shortly after their spouse or immediately following retirement? Maybe they’ve lost their best friend, their purpose in life, or maybe they find themselves more isolated and alone. A recent study from Brigham Young University found that loneliness and social isolation are just as much a threat to longevity as obesity. The researchers also found the reverse to be true, with greater social connections and contact resulting in a positive health effect. We are at the highest recorded rate of living alone, with loneliness on the rise. Some may be surrounded by people, yet still feel alone. Many couples experience feelings of loneliness in spite of their relationship. How does that happen?
Many spouses coexist and operate independently of each other. They may share the same living space and bank account, but have little physical and/or emotional connection. In some cases this is due to the couple growing apart, but not wanting to terminate the relationship completely for various reasons. Other couples harbor resentment, anger, hurt, and sadness that they’ve been unable or unwilling to work through. Sometimes individuals have little awareness or desire to have a deep, personal, and intimate relationship and prefer to have a safe yet detached existence. Connection requires sharing emotions, being vulnerable, and letting down your guard which some are reluctant to do based on past experiences or perceived rejection.
While the internet can keep people connected especially when there’s a geographic distance, online contacts can lack emotional context and depth. Even too much texting can hurt a romantic relationship, especially if this is the primary medium for conversation. To provide connections and create opportunity for deeper friendships, join a group, club, organization, and/or community activity. Volunteer work, taking a class, and going to the gym or community center for exercise can provide some social connectedness. Finding a church family and getting involved with a life group can further the likelihood of developing friendships. Buck the trend of loneliness by not living in isolation from others, and improve your chances for a longer, happier life.