Lonely people are 50% more likely to die prematurely than those with healthy social connections.

It’s official, loneliness rivals obesity and smoking as a health risk. Unfortunately, loneliness seems to be growing, with studies showing that 50% of Aussies are struggling with the feeling of loneliness.

What is important to note is that loneliness is not simply about being alone. There is a drastic difference between being alone, and being lonely. For example, an elderly person who is desires companionship but doesn’t receive any visitors, are more likely to experience the physical and emotional effects of being alone. It is also possible to feel alone but be surrounded by people. Maybe you feel unheard, or you haven’t found your right kind of people.

 Nearly half of Australians report sometimes or always feeling alone (46%) or left out (47%).
• Widespread social media use among younger adults contributes to loneliness.
• Loneliness is being fuelled by a variety of things, including improper sleep schedules, not enough quality time with family, work demands, inadequate time socialising with friends, and lack of  “me time.”

There are several reasons why loneliness can be deadly, from a decrease in immunity, increased likelihood of disease (aligned with your decreased immunity) and increased immunity in your body. All of these things can lead to heart disease and other chronic health issues. Without the correct social and emotional support, stress can also affect you more. No matter the source of the stress, from financial to health problems, a lack of healthy social interactions can have massive impact.

But! There is hope and here are our tips to address your loneliness.

Face-to-face connection with others is the best remedy –through social groups, volunteering, book clubs, and dare we say it, hiking groups! All can all be useful ways to combat loneliness and isolation

Sleep more ( or less!) People who say they sleep just the right amount have lower loneliness scores. Make sure you are getting enough of the Z’s for optimal health.

Exercise. People who say they get just the right amount of exercise are less likely to be lonely. This can be simply finding 30 minutes of walking (in nature preferably) to hitting a gym class, yoga session, or pilates workout.

Be less social. We are talking about social media here. “Social media sharing focuses almost entirely on the best experiences, with everyone trying to look like a social media ‘winner.’ Seeing all those fabulous parties, meals, etc. enjoyed by our ‘friends’ can make us feel terribly lonely,”. Aim to notice how you are feeling, and unfollow accounts that make you feel lonely, or when you find yourself comparing your life to what’s online, it might be time for a detox.

“A problem shared is a problem halved”. We recommend having a chat with someone you can confide in. If you feel you don’t have the social networks to comfortable have these conversations, find a counsellor or therapist in your area. Otherwise, come out on a hike and let your problems melt away for a few hours.