Solitude can be relaxing and restorative, but prolonged social isolation can cause our mental and physical health to suffer.
Research has proven loneliness is just as bad for us as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. And unfortunately, loneliness is on the rise in Australia.
Many circumstances can cause people to become isolated or to choose to isolate themselves from others.
We explore some of the factors and situations that may lead to social isolation here.
Mental Health Issues
Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can cause sufferers to withdraw and isolate from the people around them.
If you’ve ever experienced mental ill health, you may understand just how much effort it takes to interact with others when you’re not feeling your best.
Not only can depression and anxiety lead to social isolation, but social isolation can cause and/or exacerbate depression and anxiety. This can create a cycle that’s hard to get out of.
Living and/or Working in a Remote Area
People who live in rural or remote locations or who live long-distance from friends and family (due to work, for example) can experience feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Research shows that people in the FIFO space are at risk of loneliness due to these factors:
- Shift work has made them too exhausted to socialise in their downtime
- They hold senior roles and don’t feel it appropriate to mingle with their crews after work
- Relationship problems and disconnection when at home, due to the pressure of FIFO work.
Domestic and Family Violence
People experiencing intimate partner violence or domestic and family violence sometimes avoid contact with family, friends, or co-workers because they don’t want people to find out about the abuse.
Perpetrators of abuse may also prevent their partner from socialising or contacting friends and family to control them and to isolate them from their support networks. This is a form of abuse.
While social media can be a great way to keep up to date with what’s going on in our friends’ lives, it can have negative impacts if it replaces in-person interactions.
Research shows a link between heavy social media use and feelings of social isolation and loneliness.
It found those who spend the most time on social media (more than two hours a day) had twice the odds of perceived social isolation than those who said they spent half an hour or less a day on those sites.
We dive into the connection between social media use and social isolation here.
Physical impairments and mobility issues can impact an individual’s ability and desire to get out and about to socialise.
These challenges may cause individuals to isolate themselves and spend most or all of their time in the comfort of their own home.
Loss of Loved Ones
While grief is a universal experience, it can feel like no one understands how you feel or what you’re going through. It can be a very lonely time.
It’s normal for grieving individuals to withdraw from others following the loss of a partner, friend, or family member. This can be particularly common among seniors who have lost many contacts in their age group.
COVID-19 and other Health Concerns
We all experienced some form of social isolation due to physical distancing measures during the peak of COVID-19. Some people may still be concerned about their physical health and safety and continue to isolate themselves to avoid COVID and other illnesses.
Again, seniors may be more prone to COVID-related anxiety and choosing to stay home and avoid the public more than usual.
These are just some of the risk factors for social isolation.
If you’re struggling with feelings of loneliness or you need some extra support, talking to a counsellor can help. You can call us on 1300 364 277 to make an appointment, or learn more about our counselling services here.
We offer some tips to overcome social isolation in this blog post.