For People Living With Cancer

Is Modern Day Life Causing Social Isolation?

Is Modern Day Life Causing Social Isolation?

Isolation is a word I am using more and more frequently, not always in the physical sense but the emotional too. We hear it daily in the work we do at simPal, and are doing our best to ease that, by helping people stay connected with mobile communication. We deal with every generation from young to old and it is one of the few subjects common to all, which is ironic really as this generation has the most ways we have ever had of keeping in touch. Recently a lady contacted me with her own story, and wanted to share her experiences.

“I am writing because over time, my family somehow let my elderly grandmother isolate herself within her home. This led to depression and bouts of ill health before we all, as a family, got our act together. Now we see her regularly, speak to her daily on the phone, and this has helped us as a whole family as well as my grandmothers happiness.”

“Social isolation is a growing epidemic among all age groups, and it appears that modern day living has been a great contributor to the crippling loneliness and depression that many people are experiencing today. It seems that these negative feelings are inescapable, and it can affect the young or old, as well as the wealthy and poor. Those who are battling cancer and other physical illness are particularly prone to loneliness, and the way we live now isn’t helping matters at all. In 2012, a survey by the Office for National Statistics voted Britain as the loneliness capital of Europe. It was found that the British are less likely to form strong friendships or know other neighbours than inhabitants in any other country in the EU. Moreover, a poll conducted by The Silver Line noted that 2.5 million older people described themselves as lonely. It has also been found that in many cases, being socially isolated and lacking support while battling a disease can add more damage to your health and wellbeing. In a study, it was noted that women who were socially isolated before being diagnosed with breast cancer were twice as likely to die from the disease as women with the strongest social network. Loneliness affects all of us at some point in our lives, but feeling constantly isolated can be detrimental not only to our mental health but also to our overall wellbeing. Here’s how modern life is causing depression and loneliness

Most young people cope with the challenges of daily life by aspiring to do it all and have it all. We multi-task and work like there’s no tomorrow, and we prefer to cope with the stresses of life by hiding away and being apart from the people we love. In a research study, it was found that 86% of millennials reported feeling lonely and depressed. This is proof that while social isolation is prevalent among the elderly, even those who are young, active, and successful can feel incredibly lonely. However, naturally the elderly are also at incredible risk of feeling isolated. Poor mobility and lack of support or company as family move farther and farther away, can leave the elderly deeply unhappy as they experience later life by themselves.

Modern technology and social media have enabled us to communicate with our loved ones. However, as we continue to rely on technology to get in touch with our family and friends, the lack of face to face interactions is making us feel more socially isolated. Apart from that, experts claim that social media can paint an idealised lifestyle that can make people feel that their life isn’t as good as those of others. Comparing oneself to others can stir up a lot of negative emotions, which can contribute to depression and other mental health issues. While the modern world brings advancements in technology, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is that people continue to be diagnosed with diseases such as cancer. To make things worse, a survey has revealed that about 70,000 cancer patients in the UK are struggling alone as they have no one to look after themselves. Because of their isolation, patients are going hungry, missing medical appointments, and even rejecting treatment altogether.

Studies have shown that loneliness may be a bigger health risk than smoking or obesity. In fact, it was found that social isolation increases the risk of death by 30%, and other estimates have it as high as 60%. Loneliness can also contribute to psychological problems such as depression, dementia, anxiety, substance abuse, and schizophrenia. Those who are socially isolated also have higher rates of heart disease, infection, and cancer. The threats to our mental and physical health brought about by social isolation are very real, but we can overcome them in a lot of practical ways. One is to increase your opportunities to make friends. You can join clubs that interest you, such as a book club or a crafting club, where you’ll likely meet people who share your passions.

You can also reach out to families and friends on a regular basis. If you can’t meet your loved ones face to face, a phone call or video call is better than no communication at all. You can even get a pet if you can care for it, as having a dog or a cat can occupy your time as you give it the love and attention that it needs. If you’re alone while battling cancer, you can look for support groups and other available resources in order to get the help that you need. It also wouldn’t hurt to ask your loved ones for some help if you need some assistance during treatments. Modern life does not have to put you at risk of social isolation. By making time to communicate with your loved ones and by opening yourself up to new friendships, you can be healthier physically and mentally and live a better life.”

Thank you so much Jane for sharing your personal experience and observations! If you would like to add to the discussion please feel free to add your own views/experiences below.

The Grove Hotel Bournmouth
 I am very pleased to be an official Support Partner of  The Grove Hotel in Bournemouth, which is the only hotel in the UK specifically for people affected by  cancer.
2 Comments
  1. Great article; I totally agree. Be the change you want to see. Be the person to reach out and show your care. Be the person who stops to listen. Technology is great, but it has its limits and in spite of the hubris of Silicon Valley, it won’t be replacing real people anytime soon.

    You might enjoy a TED talk by Sherry Turkle at MIT on this: https://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together/transcript?language=en

  2. Brilliantly put Pat. Neither of us could do the work we do without technology but as always the face to face work is most important!

    Will check out the talk, thank you.

    Hope the trip is going well?

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