As Christmas approaches, we are reminded that not only is it a time for family and giving, but it is also a time when many people may feel a sense of isolation and loneliness. The John Lewis ad tugs at our heart-strings with the story of a young girl sending a message to a lonely old man on the moon. The ad’s strapline, “Show someone they are loved this Christmas”, dovetails well with Age UK’s seasonal message that, “No-one should have no-one this Christmas”.
The Christmas emphasis on ‘good will to all men’ tends to paradoxically raise our awareness of loneliness. Human beings have evolved over thousands of years in small social groups. The state of social isolation is not a natural one, and modern science is increasingly highlighting the health risks. The evidence is growing that socially isolated people are likely to have higher blood pressure, more disturbed sleep, increased levels of depression and poorer overall general health. In fact, the human body seems to treat loneliness as a chronic stressor and consequently leads to higher levels of inflammation and lower immune functioning.
Of course, you don’t have to be a scientist to know that loneliness is bad for our health. As Mother Teresa said, "The biggest disease today is not leprosy or cancer or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody." So, in the spirit of Christmas, let’s be mindful of people who may be at risk of loneliness. We can check out how they are doing, call on them or just spend some time talking. Alternatively, donating to the Age UK website can help them in their brilliant work in alleviating loneliness among the elderly.
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